By: Surjit Singh Flora
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is replacing his minister of long-term care, promoting with former finance minister Rod Phillips — who resigned from his post following a Caribbean vacation during the COVID-19 pandemic — returning as the new minister of long-term care.
Phillips will replace Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, who is now Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. A large-scale shuffle comes a little under a year before next provincial election in June 2022.
Ford said in a statement that the province is passing through the worst of the pandemic.
“As we continue to work to rebuild and support Ontario’s health system, our reorganized team is capable of fulfilling the priorities that are vital to Ontarios, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, Support businesses and job creators and build transportation infrastructure,” Ford said.
The opposition New Democracy Party criticized Phillips for returning to the Cabinet even before the announcement. Moral and accountability critic Taras Natyshak said in a statement that even in his carefully crafted St. Bart’s After the holiday was covered up, Ford was still “close to and dear Phillips.” “Phillips flew to luxurious St. Bart, and when he went, he covered his tracks with pre-written messages, pre-recorded Christmas greetings and false Zoom backgrounds, while others in Ontario squatted down and followed the public Hygiene recommends staying at home during the holidays,” Natishak said.
The length of Fullerton’s tenure as Minister of Long-Term Care is not without controversy. She was severely criticized for the severe damage caused by COVID-19 to the province’s long-term care facilities, as 3,794 nursing home residents died of the virus and thousands more were infected. This spring, the Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk and the Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission both released the department’s report, which found that the department was not prepared for the pandemic, partly because it had not taken action to prevent the crisis for years. In turn, the opposition asked Fullerton to resign.
Less than a year before the June provincial elections, this reshuffle seems to be shoving veteran MPs out of rural districts, which should be safe places for PCs, and giving junior cabinet positions to urban and suburban MPs who may be more sensitive to the election. Five ministers were removed from the cabinet, including former Environment Minister Jeff Yurek and former Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott. In the meantime, several of the younger members of the club have been promoted to more prominent portfolios.
“With 21 per cent of adults now fully vaccinated as Team Ontario sets new records in daily shots, we can be confident that the worst of the pandemic is behind us,” said Premier Ford. “As we continue our work to rebuild and support Ontario’s health system, our renewed team is well positioned to deliver on the priorities that matter to Ontarians, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, supporting businesses and job creators and building transit infrastructure.”
Changes to the Executive Council include the following:
• Jill Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North, becomes Minister of Colleges and Universities.
• Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, MPP for Kanata-Carleton, becomes Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
• Parm Gill, MPP for Milton, becomes Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
• Rod Phillips, MPP for Ajax, becomes Minister of Long-Term Care.
• Dave Piccini, MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, becomes Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
• Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, assumes a merged role as Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, as well as remains Minister of Indigenous Affairs. This new northern and economic focused ministry will enhance development potential and sustainability in the North. Energy will transfer to a new separate ministry.
• Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, becomes Minister of Energy.
• Rosario Romano, MPP for Sault Ste. Marie, becomes Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
• Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, MPP for Brampton South, becomes President of the Treasury Board.
• Kinga Surma, MPP for Etobicoke Centre, becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
• Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron Bruce, becomes Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
• Stan Cho, MPP for Willowdale, becomes Associate Minister of Transportation, reporting to Minister Mulroney.
• Jane McKenna, MPP for Burlington, becomes Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, reporting to Minister Fullerton.
• Nina Tangri, MPP for Mississauga Streetsville, becomes Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, reporting to Minister Fedeli.
• Kaleed Rasheed, MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville, becomes Associate Minister of Digital Government, reporting to Minister Bethlenfalvy.
Peter Bethlenfalvy, MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge and Minister of Finance, will assume responsibility for Ontario’s digital government strategy within the Ministry of Finance.