Fedeli, MacLeod, Thompson all demoted in major Ontario cabinet shuffle by Ford
Vic Fedeli is out at Finance after overseeing release of 1 provincial budget
Some of Ontario Premier Doug Ford's most high-profile cabinet ministers have been moved out of their posts as part of a major shuffle that came amid slumping poll numbers for the premier and controversies on several important files.
"We are putting the right people, in the right places, at the right time," Ford told reporters at Queen's Park on Thursday after a morning swearing-in ceremony attended by Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
"Every one of our cabinet ministers have done a good job, I feel. But we can always do a better job."
In the day's biggest move, Vic Fedeli lost his job as finance minister. He was demoted to minister of economic development, job creation and trade.
Fedeli's departure from the top cabinet position comes after he oversaw the release of just one provincial budget, an exceedingly rare situation for a finance minister in Ontario.
The decision to move Fedeli was not necessarily surprising to political observers — Ford's government faced weeks of intense criticism and protests after near-daily stories emerged of cuts that came in the aftermath of the April budget.
While Ford declined to comment on nearly all the other ministers who were shuffled, Fedeli was the exception. Ford said the Nipissing MPP "did an incredible job as finance minister.
"There's no better salesperson on our team than Vic Fedeli. He's going to be bringing more jobs to Ontario."
Could we have done a few things better? Absolutely.- Doug Ford, Ontario premier
Meanwhile, Rod Phillips, who served as environment minister for the first year of the PCs' mandate and played a key role in the cancellation of Ontario's cap-and-trade program, will take over the finance portfolio. Jeff Yurek will move from transportation to the environment portfolio.
Lisa Thompson, who had been education minister, and Lisa MacLeod, who was minister of children, community and social services, were both demoted as well. The two files have seen considerable strife recently as the province cut funding to school boards and revamped Ontario's autism program, moves that sparked large protests from parents and educators.
Ford said his government aggressively pursued its agenda during its first year power but sometimes failed to effectively convey its message to the public.
"I've always admitted — always — could we have done a few things better? Absolutely," he told reporters.
"We always have to do a better job in communicating and we will do a better job in communicating our successes."
Ford's cabinet expands
Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, considered by many to be one of the Ford government's most effective public speakers, will step in to MacLeod's former role. Thompson will now be responsible for government and consumer services, while MacLeod takes over the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
All but seven ministers saw their roles changed Thursday. With the shuffle, the size of Ford's cabinet grows from 21 to a total of 28 ministers and associate ministers, despite Ford saying last year that he intended to keep his cabinet small to save taxpayers' money.
Christine Elliott will remain deputy premier and minister of health, though the portfolio now has two additional cabinet positions. Merrilee Fullerton becomes minister of long-term care and Michael Tibollo becomes associate minister of mental health and addictions.
In addition to Elliott, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy will also stay in their current cabinet positions.
Caroline Mulroney will no longer be the attorney general and instead will head up the province's Ministry of Transportation and continue to oversee francophone affairs.
The shuffle also brought significant promotions for a number of backbenchers — Stephen Lecce will serve as minister of education, while Doug Downey is Ontario's new attorney general.
Ford has recently been slipping in public opinion polls, and some suggest he could hurt Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's chances of winning in Ontario in the October federal election.
Asked about criticisms of his tenure so far, Ford said his government has pushed through "85 per cent of its agenda" in its first year and has had to deal with a "financial disaster" inherited from the previous Liberal regime.
With files from The Canadian Press