Thunder Bay

Significance to some changes in Ontario cabinet: Lakehead U political scientist

There is some significance to changes made to two Ontario ministries in the wake of Monday's cabinet shuffle by Premier Kathleen Wynne, says an associate professor of political science at Lakehead University's Orillia campus.

A new name for former Aboriginal affairs portfolio, a new minister of natural resources

Doug West is an associate professor of political science at Lakehead University's Orillia campus. (lakeheadu.ca)

There is some significance to changes made to two Ontario ministries with profile in northern Ontario in Monday's cabinet shuffle, says an associate professor of political science at Lakehead University's Orillia campus.

One portfolio — the formerly-named Aboriginal affairs ministry — has been re-titled the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

"I like to think of it, that's a signal that the Ontario government finally recognizes its responsibility as a Crown government," Doug West told CBC News, adding that the government "has a duty to work with, consult with, accommodate the needs of Indigenous peoples."

"I think that's something to watch, for sure," he continued. "Reconciliation is the word of the day, so that's an interesting change in title."

David Zimmer remains the minister, but West said he's especially interested to see whether projects to connect remote First Nations to the provincial electricity grid move forward.

Natural resources no longer held by a northern MPP

Another change that West noted was that Bill Mauro was moved from the natural resources portfolio to municipal affairs, adding that he's not quite sure what to make of the switch.

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro has moved from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. (Supplied)

"As long as there's four ministers at the table from the north, I think that shouldn't be a problem, but I'm not quite sure what the logic is for doing that .... Natural resources is usually given to a northerner," he said.

Other ministers from the north after Monday's shuffle include:

  • Michael Gravelle: Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

  • David Orazietti: Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

  • Glenn Thibeault: Minister of Energy.

With the province's recently-released climate change action plan, which favours electricity and green energy sources over fossil fuels, West said it's possible having the natural resources minister in southern Ontario could help "sell this idea in the cities."

Cambridge MPP Kathryn McGarry is the new Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.