Doug Ford appoints Sylvia Jones new health minister, gives nephew spot in new PC cabinet | CBC News

2022-06-25 00:52:50 By : Ms. Penny Su

Premier Doug Ford unveiled his slightly expanded new cabinet Friday, with several top posts unchanged and Sylvia Jones stepping into the role of minister of health, one of the province's most important files.

Jones, MPP for Dufferin-Caledon, was the solicitor general in Ford's previous government. She takes over as minister of health from Christine Elliott, who did not seek re-election after serving in the role for more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ford's new executive council is 30 MPPs strong. His last cabinet had 28 members. 

"We are ready to unite behind a positive vision, ready to unite behind a plan for the future of Ontario," Ford said after the swearing-in ceremony Queen's Park. The address included sections taken directly from his campaign stump speech.

"I truly believe, I feel it in the bottom of my heart, that this is a government that must represent everyone," he added.

The new cabinet includes seven women — down from nine in the previous one — as well as seven people of colour and five rookie MPPs.

Mandate letters for the new Ontario cabinet ministers will once again not be made public, according to Ford's spokesperson Ivana Yelich. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Canada has said it will hear the government's appeal on whether or not it will be able to keep Ford's 2018 mandate letters secret.

Several key portfolios will see the same MPPs return as ministers. The list includes Peter Bethlenfalvy at finance, Stephen Lecce at education, Caroline Mulroney at transportation, Monte McNaughton at labour, Paul Calandra at long-term care, Steve Clark at municipal affairs and housing and Doug Downey as attorney general.

Merrilee Fullerton will stay in the children, community and social services portfolio, which includes navigating the autism file. A handful of people from the autism community stood on the lawn of the legislature just beyond the outdoor swearing-in ceremony to protest the growing wait list for services.

One of the rookie MPPs elevated to cabinet was Michael Ford, the premier's nephew, who will be minister of citizenship and multiculturalism.

Asked if he felt any nepotism contributed to his appointment, Michael Ford said, "I completely dismiss that."

"I've had the honour of serving on the Toronto district school board, of serving on Toronto city council in one of the most diverse communities ... so I'm honoured to be here and to do the hard work that the residents of Ontario are going to expect."

Ford too was asked about his nephew's appointment Friday and replied, "He's very qualified, has 10 years of political experience."

Graydon Smith, who was elected in Parry Sound-Muskoka, will take over the ministry of natural resources and forestry. The portfolio had been held by Greg Rickford, who stays as minister of northern development and Indigenous affairs.

He had also formerly held the mining portfolio, which has now been given to George Pirie. The former mayor of Timmins won the seat in that city after the NDP held it for 32 years. A news release says he has a specific mandate to develop the Ring of Fire.

Charmaine Williams's appointment as associate minister of women's social and economic opportunity makes her the first Black woman to be part of a PC cabinet, she told CBC News. 

"This is a major moment in history," she said. "I know this is opening so many doors and it's just challenging those narratives and stereotypes and breaking down these barriers."

Several other ministries have been tweaked, or have had mandates added. Prabmeet Sarkaria remains as Treasury Board president, but with an expanded mandate for emergency management and procurement. Kinga Surma stays on as minister of infrastructure, but with an additional mandate for government real estate.

Kaleed Rasheed is promoted from associate minister of digital government to the newly created portfolio of minister of public and business service delivery.

Michael Parsa is promoted into cabinet to become associate minister of housing, a new position.

Missing from the list is Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod, who served in several cabinet posts in Ford's previous government, most recently as minister of heritage, sport, tourism and culture industries. First-time MPP Neil Lumsden, a former Canadian Football League player who won the long-time NDP seat of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, will step into that role.

Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano, who was previously minister of government and consumer services, was also excluded.

Aside from Ford, the full list of cabinet ministers includes:

The opposition New Democratic Party on Friday called on the new cabinet to table a new budget to stop what they say are $2.7 billion in cuts currently in Ford's plan.

"The bottom line for people is that it doesn't matter who is in Ford's cabinet if the government isn't on people's side. We are calling on Ford to direct this cabinet to stop the cuts and start solving the problems that we're all facing," said NDP MPP Jeff Burch in a statement.

The PC government's budget, tabled in April, lays out $198.6 billion in spending, with billions earmarked for infrastructure this year and over the next decade. The document pledges $158.8 billion over 10 years for highways, transit and hospitals.

The NDP says it wants to see the government hire tens of thousands of health care workers, reduce class sizes and scrap Bill 124, which limits wage increases for public sector workers such as teachers and nurses to one per cent per year.

The party also criticized size of the new cabinet, saying Ford was "adding more cars to his gravy train" by expanding the number of MPPs from 21 in 2018 to 30.

"While everyday families face painful inflation with no relief in sight, Ford is making sure more of his own people can live more comfortably," said Burch.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner also issued a statement calling for more action on climate change, housing affordability and protecting farmland. He also pointed to a lack of diversity in Ford's new cabinet. 

"It is discouraging to see only 7 women of the 30 ministers. Representation matters, and all governments should strive for gender parity," he said.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario says while Lecce has been reappointed education minister, it hopes for "a change in approach" when it comes to decision-making on issues facing students and education workers.

The union representing about 83,000 elementary teachers, early childhood educators and other education staff is heading into bargaining with the province and says it plans to challenge the government if necessary to secure the funding and resources that students need. 

"While experience matters, [ETFO] believes it is more important to have an education minister who values the role of educators, believes public education should be protected through adequate investment, and works collaboratively with education partners," it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Ontario Autism Coalition was among those at Queen's Park Friday, in an effort to send the message that "the autism community cannot wait any longer."

The group said in a release that while Ford promised to "clear the wait list" for children and youth with autism who need assistance, the list has more than doubled in size since. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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