Doug Ford shuffles cabinet months into mandate
The move comes extremely early on in the Ford regime, and the opposition is painting it as a sign of weakness.
TORONTO—Ontario Premier Doug Ford shuffled his cabinet Monday just months after taking the reins of the province, a significant and unexpected restructuring that followed the resignation of one of his top ministers.
The move—which saw six Progressive Conservative legislators reassigned—was announced in a release Monday morning, prompting suggestions from critics that Ford’s government was struggling, and calls for the premier to explain his decision.
Ford did not give reasons for the new appointments but said in the statement that the shuffle would help his government achieve its goals.
“After four months of unprecedented action, we are taking this opportunity to calibrate our cabinet assignments to ensure we continue to deliver on our commitments to the people,” he said.
Ford said Progressive Conservative House Leader Todd Smith will take on the additional role of minister of economic development, job creation and trade to replace Jim Wilson, who stepped down on Friday.
John Yakabuski, who served as transportation minister, will become minister of natural resources and forestry. Jeff Yurek, who held the natural resources portfolio, will take on the transportation file.
Sylvia Jones will take over the job of community safety and correctional services minister from Michael Tibollo, who will become minister of tourism, culture and sport.
Bill Walker will join cabinet by succeeding Smith as minister of government and consumer services.
Some caucus positions are also shifting, with Lorne Coe appointed government caucus whip and Doug Downey deputy whip. Ford said all other ministerial, parliamentary assistant, and government caucus and committee roles will remain unchanged.
Many ministers who have been in the spotlight since the Tories formed government in June, including Health Minister Christine Elliott, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Education Minister Lisa Thompson, are staying in their current roles.
Critics voiced concerns about the suddenness of the shuffle, saying Ford needs to provide reasons for making such significant changes so soon into his mandate.
“These actions make it abundantly clear that Ford is trying to paper over the problems in his hand-picked cabinet. To remove and demote a number of ministers after just a few months is troubling,” NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said in a news conference.
“I think it makes us wonder, you know, is this government ready to govern and are they ready to do the things that they need to do for Ontario’s families.”
That Ford felt the need for such major change so early on does not inspire confidence in his government, said interim Liberal leader John Fraser.
“Premier Ford and his government have not stopped campaigning since the election. They were given a mandate to govern and take care of those things that are important to Ontario families, not to continue campaigning. This shuffle shows they are struggling to make that transition,” Fraser said in a statement.
A public service union said in a statement that the government appears to be “lurching and staggering out of control.”
“Ford pulling the plug on his four-month-old cabinet doesn’t inspire confidence,” said Warren “Smokey” Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “This government is drowning in its own bathwater and circling the drain.”
Governments typically sit for roughly a year—enough time to see policies develop—before switching their lineup, said Genevieve Tellier, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa.
It’s also unclear why Ford made so many changes rather than simply replacing Wilson, though it suggests the premier was not satisfied with how a few ministers were handling their portfolios despite praising some of them as recently as last week, Tellier said.
“Maybe Ford was expecting more from those ministries,” she said, noting that transportation appeared to be a priority in the election campaign but has not generated any major policies since then.
“That may be part of the explanation and if so, then we should expect more activity in the coming months about those portfolios.”
The shuffle comes days after Wilson abruptly resigned as minister and left the Tory caucus, which Ford’s office said he did in order to seek treatment for addiction issues. The premier’s office said Monday that Wilson had entered a treatment facility.
Wilson stepped down hours after appearing with Ford at a border crossing near Sarnia, Ont., on Friday where they unveiled a sign advertising Ontario as “Open for Business.”
A look at legislators with new roles in Doug Ford’s reshuffled cabinet:
TODD SMITH: The former broadcaster, first elected to the legislature in 2011, was named government house leader when Ford first took office in June. Monday’s shuffle adds the high-profile economic development, job creation and trade portfolio to his plate. Smith was named to the file on an interim basis on Friday following news of veteran legislator Jim Wilson’s resignation from both cabinet and caucus. Monday’s shuffle made the assignment permanent.
JOHN YAKABUSKI: The long-time politician, who has sat in the legislature since 2003, was named transportation minister in Ford’s first cabinet. He now moves to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
SYLVIA JONES: Jones moves from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to become minister of community safety and correctional services. A legislator since 2007, she was named deputy co-head of the Progressive Conservative party in 2015 under then-leader Patrick Brown. After Brown’s abrupt resignation in early 2018, Jones helped guide the party until Ford was named as the new party leader.
JEFF YUREK: While Yurek served as the party’s health critic during his time in opposition, he took on the natural resources and forestry portfolio when he was first named to cabinet. Now he swaps with Yakabuski and becomes the minister of transportation.
MICHAEL TIBOLLO: The rookie legislator and former minister of community safety and correctional services has drawn criticism in his first few months as a cabinet minister, first for comments he made about travelling through a northwest Toronto neighbourhood wearing a bullet-proof vest and more recently for a number of lawsuits he’s facing. Tibollo is now minister of culture, tourism and sport.
BILL WALKER: Walker is the only cabinet newcomer in Monday’s shuffle, taking over the government and consumer services portfolio from Smith. Walker has served as a Progressive Conservative legislator since 2011.