Today Premier Wynne announced a minor Cabinet shuffle, prompted by the resignation of Sault Ste. Marie MPP and former Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services David Orazietti last December.
While still minor, the shuffle did include more moves than many had initially anticipated – in some instances when a sitting minister resigns, only their replacement is named – but in this case the Premier used it as an opportunity to reduce her overall cabinet by one while still elevating some caucus members. Two of the moves underscore areas the government is expected to increase its focus on as the June 2018 election draws closer.
The most significant news is the promotion of Ottawa-Orléans MPP Marie-France Lalonde to Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, a file presenting high-profile challenges for the government, including the controversy over Adam Capay’s solitary confinement in the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre. That Lalonde has been given this post speaks to the government’s trust in her as a communicator (one who is fluently bilingual) and as someone who performed capably in her previous role as Minister of Government and Consumer Services. Lalonde will continue to serve as Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.
Government and Consumer Services will now have its third minister since June 2016, and the government no doubt believes that Pickering-Scarborough East MPP Tracy MacCharles will be able to give this important file some consistency and focus at the top. MacCharles had previously been Minister of Children and Youth Services before being shuffled to her most recent role as Minister Responsible for Accessibility and Women’s Issues, a move that some at the time considered a demotion. MacCharles will be tasked with delivering on some key government priorities at MGCS, including the ongoing modernization of ServiceOntario and continuing to strengthen consumer protections.
One seemingly minor but nonetheless interesting move was the appointment of Jeff Leal to Minister Responsible for Small Business. Leal will retain his role as Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The small business file has seen various incarnations in recent years but its elevation back as a standalone title signifies the government’s ongoing focus on the economy and relationship building with this critically important group of job creators.
The other move of note is that Mississauga East-Cooksville MPP Dipika Damerla, previously Minister Responsible for Seniors, is now Minister of Seniors Affairs, which becomes a standalone ministry. The government has indicated the Minister Damerla “will work with partners to promote age-friendly communities and improve the quality of life of Ontario seniors.” This demographic will, as always, be a critically important one in the lead up to the 2018 general election.
Finally, Halton MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris takes on the new portfolio of Minister of Women’s Issues from Minister MacCharles, focusing on the implementation of the province’s gender wage gap strategy and overall coordination of plans to build gender equality across the province. Again signifying the government’s interest and focus on a file, Naidoo-Harris will continue to serve as Minister Responsible for Early Years and Child Care, overseeing the creation of 100,000 new licensed child care spaces within five years. Previously this role was as Associate Minister of Education (Early Years and Child Care).
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January 13, 2017
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