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Doug Ford shuffles cabinet after PC legislator Jim Wilson resigns

Ontario Premier Doug Ford shuffled his months-old cabinet early Monday following the swift departure of a longtime Progressive Conservative legislator.

Changes in roles of 6 MPPs are triggered by Wilson's sudden departure from cabinet, Tory caucus

Ontario Premier Doug Ford shuffled his cabinet Monday after Progressive Conservative legislator Jim Wilson's abrupt resignation from cabinet and Tory caucus. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford shuffled his months-old cabinet early Monday following the swift departure of a longtime Progressive Conservative legislator.

Jim Wilson resigned from his post as minister of economic development, job creation and trade on Friday to seek treatment for addiction issues. This left a hole in Ford's cabinet, that he established only four months earlier, and triggered the change of roles for six MPPs. 

The premier met with Ontario's Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell this morning to usher some big-name Conservative politicians into their new posts, Ford's office announced in a news release Monday. 

"We are taking this opportunity to calibrate our cabinet assignments to ensure we continue to deliver on our commitments to the people," Ford said in a statement.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, right, met with Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell early Monday morning to announce changes to his cabinet. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Cabinet shuffles are an opportunity for the premier to move or replace poor performers on the 21-person cabinet with new blood, or to bring a new tone to some ministries.

But Monday's shuffle comes only four months after the PCs captured a majority victory in the June 7 provincial election.

Today, Ford boasted his new cabinet is the "best team in politics."

Who's in, who's out

Among the biggest promotions is Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Sylvia Jones who will lead the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. The Dufferin-Caledon MPP was named to Ford's first cabinet this summer.

Jones removes Michael Tibollo, a rookie MPP for Vaughan-Woodbridge, whose short tenure as the minister responsible for the OPP has been speckled with controversy. Most recently, media reports surfaced that Tibollo was criticized by the Ontario Securities Commission for his actions as a lawyer in the 1990s related to a $30 million stock fraud.  

Ford was praising Tibollo as recently as Thursday. During question period, the premier called Tibollo "the most credible minister down here."

"He has integrity, he has transparency and he's an absolute champion. I'll stand beside him any day, 365 days a year," said Ford.

Community Safety Minister Michael Tibollo will be demoted from his post following allegations that he campaigned for a politician questioned in an OPP probe. Tibollo, who represents Vaughan-Woodbridge, will take on the role of Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. (Ontario Legislative Assembly)

Last month, Tibollo denied campaigning for a Vaughan city council candidate whose cottage and husband are under investigation by the OPP.

Tibollo also came under fire for comments he made during question period in July when he told the chamber that he wore a bulletproof vest while on a police ride-along in Toronto's Jane and Finch neighbourhood, drawing criticism from all three opposition parties. 

Shuffle comes 4 months after cabinet sworn in

Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Jeff Yurek has also been promoted. The Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP will become the transportation minister, swapping places with longtime MPP John Yakabuski, who represents Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. 

Meanwhile, Government House Leader Todd Smith will take over Wilson's portfolio as the minister of economic development and trade. The Bay of Quinte MPP was initially announced Friday as Wilson's interim successor. Ford made the role permanent in Monday's shuffle.

Cabinet newcomer Bill Walker, the MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, will take over Smith's old job as the minister of government and consumer services.

Jim Wilson resigned as Ontario's Minister for Economic Development and from the PC caucus on Friday to seek treatment for addiction issues, according to the premier's spokesperson. (Ontario Legislature)

Wilson, who was first elected in 1990, was one of the most experienced members of Ford's team, having previously served several cabinet portfolios for the PCs under the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves governments. He represented the riding of Simcoe-Grey in Georgian Bay.

When announcing Wilson's resignation on Friday evening after appearing together at a border crossing near Sarnia, Ont., Ford also said Wilson is leaving the PC caucus — something that rarely happens when a minister steps down.

"We need to understand why the resignation has happened," NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh told reporters Monday.

"It's incumbent on [Ford] to come forward, not only for Ontario families, but to the media to explain the decisions that have been made by his cabinet."

Wilson has not issued a statement of his own, but remains as a sitting independent MPP.

Ford also appointed Whitby MPP Lorne Cole as the PC caucus whip and Doug Downey, who represents Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, as the deputy whip for the PC caucus.

Premier Doug Ford and the 20 other members of his cabinet were sworn in at Queen's Park on June 29. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Rearrangement raises more questions, NDP says

Members of the Official Opposition likened the shuffle to "more secret backroom deals" and accused the premier of downplaying the real reasons for the demotion of several senior cabinet members.

"Ford cooked up a new cabinet in the dead of night and behind closed doors," said Singh. 

"Mr. Ford needs to answer to some of the decisions that he's making ... It makes us wonder, is this government ready to govern?"

NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh criticized Ford's decision to shuffle some cabinet posts while maintaining others, saying the move was a 'missed opportunity' to add diversity. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Singh also pointed out the need for some "clarity" as to why Ford only handed certain files to some ministers, while other portfolios remained untouched. 

"There's no rationale for the shuffle and why certain people have been moved into the roles that they have and others remain where they are," Singh told reporters.

She also said the shuffle is a "missed opportunity" for Ford to tackle diversity issues within his cabinet. As of 2016, about three-in-ten Ontarians identified as being part of a visible minority, but among the reconfigured cabinet, only one minister isn't white.

"We're not seeing this province adequately reflected in the choices that they've made," said Singh.

The new cabinet also did little to address the gap in gender parity, with seven women and 14 men.

Watch the Power Panel debate the cabinet shuffle on Power & Politics

Brad, Yolande, Rachel and Catherine discuss Premier Doug Ford's cabinet shuffle. 9:47

With files from Mike Crawley

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