How Premier Doug Ford's cabinet choices reveal priorities and may foreshadow cuts

Premier Doug Ford unveils his 'all-star team' with high profile positions going to his one-time leadership rivals. Other portfolios are merged into other ministries, which critics say will be areas flagged for cost cutting.

Cabinet consists of 14 men, 7 women and just 1 visible minority

After a swearing in at Queen's Park, Premier Doug Ford re-affirms the oath at an outdoor ceremony before cheering supporters. (CBC)

Who Premier Doug Ford put in key portfolios, as well as which ministries he chose to eliminate or fold into others, signals the new government's priorities, say supporters and critics alike.

Janet Ecker is a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister who served from 1995 to 2003, during which time she took on roles as minister of finance and minister of education.  

"Certainly in the early days and on the critical issues — for example the hydro file — you're going to see the premier's office is going to be very hands on," say Ecker.

She applauds the choice of Caroline Mulroney as attorney general and Christine Elliott as minister of health and long-term care — important, high-profile roles for former Ford leadership rivals.

Just 1 visible minority

"It was a nice touch to have [Elliot] as deputy premier, because her style and temperament looks like it's very different from the premier's, so that will be a good balance and good for the government," says Ecker.

"The other thing about that legislature, you've got so many newbies, new people — new women, new people from multicultural backgrounds. So there's the opportunity to change the culture of that house."
Christine Elliott, former contender for the Ontario PC Leadership, was chosen as minister of health and long-term care and deputy premier. (Canadian Press)

Ontario's new Progressive Conservative government will have a cabinet of 21 — that's seven fewer ministers than the previous Liberal government under Kathleen Wynne. Of those ministers, 14 are men and seven are women.

Only one, however, is a visible minority — Raymond Cho, who was sworn in as the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

NDP MPP-elect Sara Singh was one of those criticizing the lack of diversity in Premier Ford's inner circle.

'Not seeing themselves reflected'

"For me, as a young woman of colour, and I'm sure for many other across this province, they are not seeing themselves reflected in the decisions that were made," says Singh.

She also criticized Ford for collapsing some ministries. For example, Child and Youth Services, Community and Social Services and Women's Issues were all merged into one.

Singh says that sends a big signal about which ministries would be favoured and which would have to deal with cuts. 
Sara Singh, NDP MPP-elect, discusses the concerns the NDP has about which ministries the Ontario Premier has downgraded during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

"How does it show that Mr. Ford is prioritizing these issues?" asked Singh, noting that Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs all fall under one minister.

"A part-time minister in indigenous relations and reconciliation is not good enough."

Wheels in motion

Premier Ford also announced the names of parliamentary assistants, each of whom will hold special responsibilities supporting his cabinet ministers.

Laure Paquette, associate professor of political science at Lakehead University, says that the premier would appoint the ministers' chiefs of staff and as well as senior bureaucrats and deputy ministers is a clear signal.

"Those are indications that there's going to be a strong central figure," she says, adding the major portfolio all predictably went to Ford's challengers for party leadership.

"The three biggies — attorney general, finance and health — those are all Red Tories, those are all progressives," says Paquette.

MPPs will be called back on July 11 to elect a speaker, but Ford has already set the wheels in motion on several of his campaign promises.

Scrapping the cap-and-trade system is first on his agenda, followed by a line-by-line audit of government spending in order to eliminate $6 billion in waste without cutting jobs.

The throne speech is scheduled for July 12.  

About the Author

Philip Lee-Shanok

Senior Reporter, CBC Toronto

From small town Ontario to Washington D.C., Philip has covered stories big and small. An award-winning reporter with more than two decades of experience in Ontario and Alberta, he's now a Senior Reporter for CBC Toronto on television, radio and online. He is also a National Reporter for The World This Weekend on Radio One. Follow him on Twitter @CBCPLS.