Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday June 21, 2019
Ontario Premier Doug Ford shakes up cabinet amid backlash for spending cuts
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has unveiled a cabinet shuffle that moves several prominent ministers out of key roles after he faced fights over spending cuts, sagging poll numbers and loud boos at public events.
A year into his term, Mr. Ford demoted his finance minister, Vic Fedeli, two months after he delivered the government’s first budget in April. The budget contained targeted cuts to municipalities and other services that, since the details came to light, have dogged Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives.
The changes expand the cabinet table to 28 seats from 21, and make room for several newcomers. They follow complaints in PC circles that the government has had trouble communicating its message, as some recent polls suggest that under Mr. Ford, the party has suffered as much as a 10-per-cent decline in support from the 40.5 per cent it won in last June’s election.
Ontario, the country’s most populous province, home of its financial hub and generator of nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product, will be a key battleground for this fall’s federal election. Senior Liberals see Mr. Ford’s performance as a potential liability for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, and routinely link them in public statements. Senior Conservative MPs say they have heard concerns about the Premier from voters.
Lisa MacLeod, who clashed with the parents of autistic children over the government’s changes to funding for treatment, was moved from Children and Social Services to Tourism, Culture and Sport. Lisa Thompson, who, as education minister, faced off against school boards over plans to increase class sizes – saying it would make students more resilient – moves to Government and Consumer Services.
Only eight of Mr. Ford’s ministers kept their jobs in the changes, which come just days after the Premier was booed at an event to celebrate the Toronto Raptors’ NBA championship win. In May, he was booed at the opening of the Special Olympics in Toronto.
After Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell swore in the new cabinet, Mr. Ford provided few details on the reasons for the moves. He acknowledged his government has had problems with communication, but said he wanted media coverage to be more “fair and balanced.”
Asked if he is to blame for the recent criticism, he replied: “I look at continuous improvement. It starts with me. Every one of our cabinet ministers, I feel they’ve done a good job, they can always do a better job. I can always do a better job as well.”
The decision to demote Mr. Fedeli, the former mayor of North Bay, Ont., stunned some senior Conservatives, who view him as a steady hand. Mr. Fedeli was the party’s interim leader in early 2018, after Patrick Brown resigned. (Globe & Mail)