Ontario's new cabinet: 5 key questions

A look at factors in Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's selection of her new cabinet
The stakes are high for Kathleen Wynne, who was sworn in as Ontario's premier on Monday and named her new cabinet. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne put her own stamp on government Monday, naming a new cabinet on the day she was sworn in as Ontario's 25th premier.

Here's a look at the factors that went into her cabinet picks as the Liberals look to keep their minority government in power and avoid an election this year.

1. Is Charles Sousa’s appointment to Finance the result of a convention-floor deal?

Charles Sousa: takes over Finance.

Sousa certainly has the curriculum vitae for this job after years working in senior posts with RBC. But his move to back Wynne after round two at the leadership convention effectively ended what was a neck-and-neck race between Wynne and Sandra Pupatello. Wynne has said cabinet posts were not dangled in exchange for leadership support. Cynics and the Opposition will argue otherwise. Sousa is seen as a more conservative-leaning Liberal and appeared to be a better fit with the Pupatello camp. Machiavellian masterstroke or not, Sousa will face pressure to perform right away. In record time, he’ll have to assemble a budget that will need cross-party support to pass and include measures to pare back Ontario's $11.9-billion deficit. The fall of the government and an election will be the likely price of failure.

2. Is Liz Sandals ready for the Education portfolio? 

Liz Sandals: big promotion to Education.

This is a big jump for Sandals, a backbencher for the past nine years who served as president of the Ontario School Boards Association before being first elected in Guelph in 2003. She’ll need to somehow repair the Liberals’ soured relationship with teachers, a group that once formed a key base of their support. An early test will be whether she can get teachers to resume supervising extra-curricular activities. Sandals served as Wynne’s parliamentary assistant during her term as education minister and some are suggesting the premier’s office will have closer-than-usual oversight of this file. 

3. Why did Energy go to Bob Chiarelli?

Chris Bentley: suffered as Energy minister.

He has solid cabinet experience and is seen as a steady hand on the tiller. He’ll have to be with the Opposition demanding new hearings into the Liberals' decision to cancel gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga at a cost of at least $230 million. The gas plant furor was a factor in former energy minister Chris Bentley's decision to quit politics and some see this appointment as a way to keep the younger up-and-comers shielded from this potentially explosive portfolio. It's worth noting that Chiarelli backed Pupatello at last month's leadership convention.  

4. Will Wynne’s decision to oversee Agriculture help win rural support? 

Wynne said she would be responsible for the Agriculture ministry well before Monday’s cabinet shuffle. This is an attempt to win support in rural areas, where the Liberals were virtually wiped out in the 2011 election. With few options in her caucus for promoting rural MPPs, Wynne is trying to compensate for a shallow bench. University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman called her agriculture appointment a "peculiar" move that would be unlikely to convince any rural ridings to vote Liberal in the next election.

5. How will Laurel Broten accept her demotion?

In many ways, former education minister Broten is a victim of Dalton McGuinty’s decision to play hardball with teachers. Her move to back Pupatello’s leadership bid didn’t help. Broten held up well handling the hand grenade that was Bill 115, legislation that banned teachers from striking and made it possible for the government to impose contracts. Many see Intergovernmental Affairs as a significant demotion in a cabinet shuffle that will promote a handful of rookies. Government sources are spinning a counter argument, saying the portfolio will be key in working with the federal government in negotiations on transfer payments and other issues. They are touting Broten’s negotiation skills and her fluency in French.

With files from CBC's Mike Crawley, Robert Fisher, The Canadian Press