New provincial cabinet could reflect premier’s focus on skilled trades, building infrastructure

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DXR, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Canadian Press

Ontario Premier Doug Ford will soon announce his new cabinet to help steer his agenda of his second term – with an announcement coming in the next two weeks, a senior government source told Canadian Press.

Premier Doug Ford is expected to introduce a new cabinet by the end of June, an anonymous source told Canadian Press.

Since the June 2 election victory, the premier has focused on establishing priorities for his second term and developing “marching orders” for ministers.

Laryssa Waler, who was Ford’s executive director of communications, said the premier has been clear about his priorities, including building hospitals and Highway 413 and strengthening his relationship with labour sectors.

“I think that he’ll build the cabinet to reflect that,” said Waler, now a principal at executive advisory firm gt&co.

That could result in new ministries for priorities such as hospital infrastructure, skilled trades and cross-border trade.

“I think he’ll take into account regional opportunities to have more representation, maybe from the north, down in Hamilton, down through Windsor to southwestern Ontario. Regional representation is important in every cabinet.”

The Progressive Conservatives took two Windsor ridings away from the NDP, and former Canadian Football League player Neil Lumsden won the longtime NDP riding of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek for the Tories.

Baldauf said the premier will want his cabinet to be geographically diverse, but also to be more demographically diverse. His first cabinet had just one member of a visible minority, Baldauf noted, but later iterations were more representative.

“We will likely see a continuation of that, to ensure that in age, in other sociodemographic realities, the cabinet does reflect the face of Ontario today,” he said.

At a post-election news conference, Ford touted that the Progressive Conservatives saw not one, but three candidates from the Black community elected.

Likely top of mind for the premier is the biggest cabinet portfolio, as it’s also one that is wide open, with the resignation of Christine Elliott, who served as health minister through all four years of the previous government.

One name that has been raised in cabinet speculation stories is Sylvia Jones, who was previously Solicitor General.

Baldauf said the name may come as a surprise to some, but it’s likely because Jones didn’t have a huge public profile as Solicitor General because it’s a file Ford enjoys, so the premier would often step into the spotlight for announcements.

“But I can tell you, she’s established herself within government as somebody who is almost universally respected, somebody who the premier trusts and, who capably manages her files,” he said.

Baldauf and Waler were split on speculation about where Monte McNaughton might land. He was appointed minister of labour in 2019, introduced a spate of legislation aimed at being worker friendly, and his focus on the skilled trades sector paid off for the Tories with an array of trade union endorsements.

“Some of us were scratching our heads when Monte was moved from infrastructure to labour, because we saw him as so capable, and labour was seen as a file that for a Conservative government was not going to be a priority,” Baldauf said.

“Well, here we are a number of years later, and look what he’s done with the place.”

But Waler said she would be surprised if McNaughton is moved out of labour, since he has spent so much time developing relationships with labour leaders and the membership of unions across the province. She said she would also be surprised if Vic Fedeli is moved away from Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

He had a bumpy one-year stint as finance minister, but while he was in Economic Development the province managed to woo billions in auto sector investment, including a new electric vehicle battery plant for  Windsor.

“He is really the author and the father of the auto strategy,” Waler said.

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