If you were listening carefully to Premier Doug Ford’s swearing-in on Friday, that’s what you would have heard him say once he concluded reading his oath of office. It’s almost as if he was saying “I’ve worked tirelessly 24/7 to get to recite a single paragraph.” It may be a short bit of text but it’s a powerful one. And in naming his cabinet, Ford set the tone for what lies ahead.
Those who expected Ford to be reckless in his cabinet choices will be disappointed. His choices were a careful blend of experienced parliamentarians with new blood from the outside. The geographical representation was there and although there’s no gender parity, women are going to yield powerful functions in Ford’s cabinet.
Christine Elliott to be Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care was a no brainer. She was Deputy PC Leader before she became Patient Ombudsman. Vic Fedeli at Finance brings his valuable experience as Finance critic to a hot potato portfolio. Jim Wilson, a veteran of former Michael Harris’ government brings an experienced and steady hand to the Ministry of Economic Development, Job creation and Trade. Given the overnight explosion of these issues courtesy of US President Donald Trump tariff madness, his knowledge of the machinery of government will be crucial to the manufacturing sector.
John Yakabuski, one of the greatest current orators in parliament, gets to become Minister of Transportation. Lisa MacLeod was particularly well-suited to become Minister of Children, Community and Social services and Women’s Issues. Last year, her private member’s bill became law. Known as Rowan’s Law after an Ottawa teen died of concussion while playing rugby, the new law, passed unanimously setting-up a cross committee to ensure consistency among provincial ministries and to pay more attention to coroner’s inquests recommendations.
Steve Clark became Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He will bring to cabinet his extensive experience with municipal government. When he was first elected as Mayor at 22, he was the youngest mayor in Canada.
Then there is the new blood. Most notably, lawyer Caroline Mulroney becomes the Attorney General and Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, succeeding the all-sizzle-no-steak Yasir Naqvi. She brings youth, vitality and the right pedigree to cabinet. The daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, she was educated at Harvard University and the New York University School of Law.
At 20, the current cabinet is about a third smaller than former Premier Kathleen Wynne’s outgoing and tired cabal. After considering how the Liberals left the cupboards empty, they have their work cut out for them.
What struck me the most in the re-arrangement of ministries is that they are tailored in a much more logical way. Efficiencies begin today as bloated ministries are amalgamated. For example, Wynne’s cabinet inexplicably had a stand-alone Minister of Seniors Affairs and another one dealing with accessibility. It makes sense to combine both into the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. Same for Economic Development and Growth. Wynne separated economic growth from trade. Ford now has grouped up economic development and trade, and added job creation to Wilson’s portfolio.
It’s a political football and often the elephant in the room, but the salary of MPPs, Ministers and the Premier should also be addressed pronto. Back in 2006, former Premier Dalton McGuinty and then opposition Leader, now Toronto Mayor John Tory, had proposed a formula that would have increased MPPs’ salary to 75% of federal MPs salaries, as recommended by former judge and Integrity Commissioner Coulter Osborne. It’s ridiculous that a federal backbencher makes thousands more than a provincial cabinet minister. MPs have lofty pensions. MPPs have none.
The idea in 2006 was to depoliticize the remuneration of our provincial politicians – a thorny issue for most people.
In 2009, Wynne froze salaries again in an empty, symbolic act. There’s never a good time to talk about politicians’ pay. But Ford should use the money saved on building his cabinet and thaw Wynne’s freeze.