EXECUTIVE DECISIONS – It wasn’t an earth-shaking cabinet shuffle, but Premier Kathleen Wynne did make some intriguing changes to her executive council this week. Nobody was promoted from the backbenches, but three MPPs – all, notably, women – are now full-fledged ministers, having ditched their “Associate Minister” and “Minister without Portfolio” titles. This was facilitated by bumping up Women’s Issues and Seniors Affairs to full ministries. Indira Naidoo-Harris will helm Women’s Issues, while also keeping responsibility for Early Years and Child Care (which she previously had as Associate Minister of Education). Dipika Damerla takes on Seniors Affairs, basically keeping her previous responsibility, but now as a stand-alone ministry. Tracey MacCharles becomes Minister of Government and Consumer Services, while maintaining responsibility for Accessibility (which she too had before, along with Women’s Issues, but again without portfolio.) MacCharles replaces Marie-France Lalonde, who moves to fill the vacancy at Community Safety and Correctional Services, while keeping responsibility for Francophone Affairs. One other change sees Jeff Leal add responsibility for Small Business to his Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs portfolio. Although there are more roles, the size of the cabinet is actually smaller than it was before, now comprising 29 ministers.
IT’S ACADEMIC – Wynne’s cabinet remix was necessitated by the departure of David Orazietti, who didn’t take long to find a new gig. Just a few weeks after resigning from cabinet and stepping down as MPP for Sault Ste. Marie, Orazietti was named Dean of Aviation, Trades and Technology, Natural Environment and Business at Sault College. A former teacher, Orazietti insists he didn’t have the job confirmed before he left Queen’s Park. “No, it’s something that was reached or agreed to after I had resigned,” he told the Sault Star. “I wanted to be here, at home, with my family, and be spending more time in Sault Ste. Marie, which was the reason I resigned. This is an opportunity that does fit very well and I’m very much looking forward to it.” Now that he’s in a position that requires some political neutrality, Orazietti will have to be careful about how much he participates in the by-election to replace him – which Wynne has until late June to call. But presumably the Liberals will want to tap into his riding organization as they try to hang on to the seat he held for nearly 13 years.
UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP – Wynne probably doesn’t have much in common with actress Jane Fonda, but they are united at the moment in feeling let down by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Fonda took a broad swipe at Trudeau, feeling he reneged on pledges agreed to at the 2015 climate change summit in Paris – which Wynne also attended. “We all thought, well, cool guy. What a disappointment,” Fonda scoffed, then hit on a couple of themes close to Wynne’s heart. “[He talked] so beautifully about needing to meet the requirements of the climate treaty … and respect and hold to the treaties with the Indigenous people and so forth, you know, such a heroic stance he took there. And yet he has betrayed every one of the things that he committed to in Paris.” Wynne didn’t respond to Fonda’s tirade, but she’s got her own issues with the Trudeau government. In the first sign of real tension between the Liberal cousins, Wynne is escalating her demands for more health care funding from the feds. She was on the defensive after the province’s Financial Accountability Office released a report this week suggesting Wynne’s government won’t be able to limit spending growth on health care – a key factor in promises to balance the provincial budget – unless it makes significant cuts in services. Cue the Opposition: “They’re playing a dangerous game here with the health-care system. They’re playing a bit of Russian Roulette hoping that they make it to the next election,” snarled NDP MPP John Vanthof; PC Health Critic Jeff Yurek chimed in that Wynne “is attempting to balance the budget on the backs of patients and our health-care providers. Patients are already suffering.” Wynne deflected the challenges toward Ottawa, noting that although three Atlantic provinces have made deals with the feds to accept annual increases in health care transfers of 3.9%, “there are 10 premiers and 10 ministries across the country that have said this is not adequate, it is not possible for us to meet the needs of the people in our provinces and territories without having additional funding.” Wynne continues to press for a 5.2% annual boost.
ANTI-SOCIAL– Nominating candidates for the June 2018 provincial election is proving to be more of a headache for PC Leader Patrick Brown than he would have liked. The growing rift between the social conservative wing of the party and Brown’s stated desire to present a more middle-of-the-road, mainstream face have clashed spectacularly in several nomination races across the province. Many current caucus members have already been through the nomination process – getting acclaimed an unheard-of 18 months ahead of the election to avoid any internal (read: SoCon) challenges. This all started when 19-year-old upstart Sam Oosterhoff staged a stunning upset of party stalwarts in the Niagara West-Glanbrook by-election. Since then, the party has reportedly disqualified at least five would-be candidates. Some, like Jay Tysick in Carleton, have not gone quietly. He has been openly critical of chosen candidate Goldie Ghamari and the process, quoted extensively in the social conservative LifeSite News, to the point of a libel suit being threatened. In Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, local councillor Amanda Simard was acclaimed to the candidacy after businessman Derek Duval was nixed by the party. (It is perhaps more than a coincidence that the chosen candidates are women — one a visible minority — as the party tries to break its old stereotypes.) And if that isn’t enough, former Mississauga MP Bob Dechert, who was in the federal Tory caucus alongside Brown, angrily pulled out of the race in Mississauga Erin-Mills, demanding an investigation. “I have lost confidence in the integrity of the party’s nomination process,” Dechert wrote in a letter to the party, citing concerns about allowing “out of riding candidates” who have “worked with the Liberals” and the practice of signing up “instant members” to stack the vote. However, sources say that out of 2,000 memberships sold in this nomination contest, Dechert’s people had managed to move a total of around 80 — so it may well be the real reason he dropped out is that he had no chance of winning.
ALL IN ORDER – A couple of names familiar to Queen’s Parkers were announced as Order of Canada appointees this week. Former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley made the list, as did Harris-Eves era cabinet minister Janet Ecker, who was recognized for her contributions to provincial politics and to Canada’s financial services industry. “I look at the list of nominees this year and in previous years, it’s pretty impressive,” Ecker told local media. “I’m excited, but I’m quite humble. Those are phenomenal people they have on the list.”
FOR THE RECORD
“Obviously during the campaign President Trump talked about various issues related to NAFTA and TPP and that will take a lot of focus of Minister Duguid’s time.”
Newly-named Small Business Minister Jeff Leal (who also keeps his Agriculture portfolio), admitting that the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. is one of the reasons Small Business has been separated from Economic Development.
“I’m not costing you a penny right now, but if I give up and go in the welfare line, then you’ll be looking after me. I don’t know why they would try to put people in a position where they can’t afford to keep going because they’re going to have to carry them anyway.”
Amherstberg resident Libby Keenan, who posted online an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne complaining about the spike in hydro rates that has put her “one car repair or one mechanical breakdown“ away from having to close down the equestrian business she operates.
“The lesson is we shouldn’t be fooled by good-looking Liberals.”
Hollywood star and prominent activist Jane Fonda, slamming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while in Edmonton to protest oil pipelines approved by Trudeau’s government. (No, it’s not directly related to Ontario politics, but it was such a good quote we couldn’t resist putting it in Ontario Legislative Highlights.)
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