TORONTO — Premier Kathleen Wynne re-jigged her cabinet Thursday largely to fill the corrections job while the government faces close scrutiny over jail segregation, but she also took the opportunity to make a Trump-related adjustment.
Marie-France Lalonde was named the new community safety and correctional services minister, taking over for David Orazietti, who resigned last month to spend more time with family.
Orazietti had only been in the job since a major cabinet shuffle in June, and the continuing turnover comes at a time of increasing public anger over solitary confinement practices.
Not long after he had to answer for the treatment of Adam Capay, an inmate held in segregation for four years in Thunder Bay, Orazietti announced he had tapped federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers to lead a provincial review into the use of segregation.
Lalonde said she looks forward to receiving Sapers' reports. His interim report is due around the end of February and his final report is expected in the spring.
"We've already started to make some improvements and I will work with Mr. Sapers," Lalonde said. "I understand that from his review there will be more work to be done and we agree with that, we acknowledge this."
Just one day before his resignation, Orazietti announced the province was hiring more corrections staff, including officers, nurses, psychologists and segregation managers in an attempt to address issues with solitary confinement and inmates with mental-health challenges.
Ontario also recently announced that a 30-day cap on disciplinary segregation was lowered to 15 consecutive days, though inmates can still be held in administrative segregation — for example for safety reasons — indefinitely.
Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal got another job added Thursday, assuming the new portfolio as minister responsible for small business. The file had been under the purview of Economic Development and Growth Minister Brad Duguid, but Leal suggested Duguid will have his hands full once U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
"Brad Duguid (is a) very vigorous minister doing an incredible job, but...obviously during the campaign President (elect) Trump talked about various issues related to NAFTA and TPP and that will take a lot of focus of Minister Duguid's time," Leal said.
Trump railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement during the U.S. election campaign, though he almost never mentioned Canada. Still, Duguid has recently been trying to ease fears that Trump policies would harm the province's auto sector, after Trump threatened to impose taxes on cars imported into the U.S. from Mexico, saying Ontario continues to attracted new investment and there's no indication Ontario's auto sector will be adversely affected.
Small businesses are an integral part of Ontario's economy, the government said, and having Leal take separate responsibility for them will "accelerate" work that's being done to ensure they can compete.
Lalonde had been government and consumer services minister, a post that will now be filled by Tracy MacCharles, who also keeps her role as minister responsible for accessibility. Lalonde also keeps her job as francophone affairs minister.
MacCharles had also been minister responsible for women's issues, a portfolio that is now transferred to Indira Naidoo-Harris, who retains responsibility for Early Years and Child Care.
Seniors' Affairs now becomes a standalone ministry under Dipika Damerla, who had been the minister responsible for seniors since June.
Wynne will also have to call a byelection for Sault Ste. Marie, the riding formerly held by Orazietti, by the end of the spring. This week, Orazietti was named dean of aviation, trades and technology, natural environment and business at Sault College.