Ministers in charge of some of the most problematic files for the Progressive Conservative government — including education and social services — got smaller portfolios, as did Fedeli, the minister in charge of all spending, after his budget was not well received.
The government has faced weeks of criticism as funding cuts that were hidden in the April budget have since emerged in a near-daily stream, fuelling successive waves of criticism and outrage.
Every one of our cabinet ministers, I feel, have done a good job, but we can always do a better job.Premier Doug Ford
Ford acknowledged communications problems over the past year, but framed his cabinet shake-up as a way to start fresh for year two.
“Every one of our cabinet ministers, I feel, have done a good job, but we can always do a better job,” he said.
Fedeli did “an incredible job” as finance minister, but will also be great in his new role as economic development minister since he is a natural salesperson, Ford said.
Rod Phillips, who as environment minister played a major role in the cancellation of the province’s cap-and-trade program and attacking the federal carbon tax, replaces Fedeli in finance.
Lisa MacLeod, who angered parents over her handling of the autism file as minister of children, community and social services, is taking over the tourism, culture and sport portfolio.
Lisa Thompson moves from education to government and consumer services after sparring with teachers’ unions and angering parents by increasing class sizes.
Her successor in education, Stephen Lecce, has a monumental task ahead as bargaining with teachers is just getting underway in a new era of wage restraint and the fallout of larger class sizes is looming in September.
Lecce is one of two backbenchers who got huge promotions, with Doug Downey also becoming attorney general.
In all, there are seven new faces around the cabinet table, with the size of the executive council ballooning from 21 to 28 people. As one of Ford’s first acts as premier he slashed the size of Toronto city council, but denied that increasing the size of his own government sends a contradictory message.
“We’re always going to have the best interests of running an efficient government,” he said. “If you look at some of the other cabinets over the years we’re still in line, if not smaller.”
Merrilee Fullerton, who came under fire for changes to post-secondary education as minister of colleges and universities, will be responsible for long-term care. And Caroline Mulroney is being moved out of her role as attorney general to the post of transportation minister. She will continue to be responsible for francophone affairs.
Health Minister Christine Elliott, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy are among the high-profile members of cabinet keeping their posts.
The shuffle comes just after Ford and his Tories marked the one-year anniversary of winning a majority government.
Ford has been slipping in the polls, and some suggest he could hurt Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s chances of winning in Ontario in the October federal election.