BUILT FORD TOUGH— Later this morning we will have a clear picture of the 42nd Parliament of Ontario when Doug Ford loses the “designate” part of his current title, is sworn in as Premier and introduces his cabinet. Speculation on the composition of Ford’s front bench dominated discussion around Queen’s Park in what has technically been the final week of the Liberal government that has held power since 2003. Some forecasted Ford would name a cabinet as small as 15, with an upper-end estimate of 22 — our guess is it falls somewhere in the middle. (Of note, when Mike Harris returned the Tories to power in 1995, he swore in a 19-member cabinet, down from 30 in the last days of the Bob Rae government.) Reducing the cabinet from the 28 spots outgoing-Premier Kathleen Wynne had at dissolution will obviously require some juggling. For example, the Ministries of Education, Advanced Education and Skills Development and Research, Innovation and Science could conceivably all be folded into a single post. We can expect that Ford’s cabinet will reflect his key principle of respect for the taxpayer, and it is in his character to reward loyalty. Each of those will have to be balanced with the politics around naming a cabinet, ensuring gender and racial equity as well as geographic representation. See Rumours & Rumblings for a summary of some of the names mentioned as cabinet possibilities, with a special Ontario Legislative Highlights Cabinet Bulletin being issued later today after the cabinet is sworn in.
MOWING THE LAWN — From the moment a Ford majority was declared on the June 7th, activists began gearing up for a fight. It ought to make for an interesting scene later today on the lawn of Queen’s Park. The last time a Tory government returned to office after a few terms in exile, the swearing-in ceremony was met with a massive gathering of protestors on the front lawn of the legislature. Reports from that June 26, 1995, day say the din of the crowd could be heard inside the Pink Palace during the ceremony. Fast forward to today, and a similar throng is expected to rail against the incoming government, but the dynamics will be substantially different — mainly because Ford has decided to hold a swearing-in ceremony and event right where the protestors like to gather — on the lawn of Queen’s Park. Thousands of supporters are expected to come witness the pomp and circumstance and security is expected to be heavy — including street closures — to try and maintain a sense of decorum around the spectacle.
BACK TO THE FUTURE— Ford’s caucus features five holdovers with experience on the government side of the House, and three of them have been in cabinet before. Both Jim Wilson and Ted Arnott came to Queen’s Park in the 1990 election, with Wilson the first Minister of Health named by Harris after the PCs won in 1995, and over two terms also serving as a Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, the Environment and Northern Development and Mines. He was also the party’s interim leader between the resignation of Tim Hudak after the 2011 election and the selection of Patrick Brown as leader. Arnott spent time as Environment Minister, Education Minister and Deputy Premier during Harris’s second term. Ernie Hardeman, who served as a Minister of Agriculture and an Associate Minister of Municipal Affairs, and Toby Barrett both came to Queen’s Park in the 1995 PC sweep. Norm Miller joined the government in the 2001 by-election to replace the (briefly) departed Ernie Eves. On the Liberal side of the House, of the party’s seven remaining MPPs, one of them can remember what it is like to not be in government — Michael Gravelle is also of the class of 1995 and spent two terms as a member of the Official Opposition before the Liberals’ 2003 victory.
THE DEAN’S OFFICE— With the somewhat stunning defeat of Liberal stalwart Jim Bradley, there is a three-way race to be the unofficial dean of the legislature. First elected in 1977, Bradley was a little more than a year away from being the longest-serving MPP in Ontario history — until voters had decided otherwise. Wilson and Arnott are joined by NDP MPP Gilles Bisson as the only remaining representatives of the September 6, 1990, election — and are the current longest-serving MPPs.
IN MOURNING— It has not been a good month for former cabinet minister Steven Del Duca. Two weeks after being defeated in the provincial election, Del Duca got the tragic news that his younger brother was killed in a car accident. Michael Del Duca was reportedly a passenger in a car on his way home on June 21st when the car mysteriously left the road, rolled over and collided with a stand of trees, killing both Del Duca and the driver. York Region Police are still investigating. Only 33 years old, Del Duca leaves behind a wife and two young sons, for whom a Go Fund Me page has been set up. Donations can be made at gofundme.com/del-duca-family.
RUMOURS & RUMBLINGS
There is no shortage of names being bandied about for inclusion in Ford’s first cabinet:
There are a few considered to be locks: Caucus veterans Lisa MacLeod and Vic Fedeli — who guided the party through the transition from Brown to Ford — and star candidates Christine Elliott, Rod Phillips and Caroline Mulroney. Beyond that, it is largely guesswork.
It is likely some of the holdovers from the 1995-2003 PC government will return to the front benches, in particular Wilson and possibly Barrett, who has been mentioned as a possible Agriculture Minister — although there are also rumblings that Lisa Thompson is going to be get that post.
Others in caucus with tenure around the Park include John Yakubuski and Laurie Scott, the only two new PCs elected in the 2003 election.
During the campaign, Ford openly mused about newcomers Peter Bethlenfalvy, Greg Rickford and Doug Downey as cabinet material.
Ford will need to ensure that Toronto is represented and that he has gender balance. Naming rookies Christine Hogarth (who has cabinet experience as a staffer) and Robin Martin as ministers will help meet both of those initiatives.
Regardless, with a streamlined cabinet but a 76-member caucus, there will some egos that need managing for those who are left on the outside looking in. The Toronto Star has reported that former Harris-era cabinet ministers John Baird and Janet Ecker met with caucus and reminded them that eventual political heavy hitters like Jim Flaherty, Tim Hudak, Deb Matthews and Wynne were not named to cabinet immediately after their first election to government.
SPEAK FOR THEE
After the swearing in ceremony is complete the new government will have to get down to the business of governing, and one of the first orders of business will be the election of a Speaker of the House. The veteran Arnott was considered an early favourite — until he indicated that he is not going to seek the spot as the referee of the House’s proceedings. It is expected Arnott is putting his support behind Hardeman, who Queen’s Park insiders say is now the odds-on favourite. He is expected to be running against Rick Nicholls and Randy Hillier.
FOR THE RECORD
“Clearly it worked, it absolutely worked. You went from having one to two seats to having seven … it’s a heck of a lot better than two.”
PC Campaign Manager Kory Teneycke, in a podcast discussion with his Liberal counterpart David Herle, noting that Kathleen Wynne’s admission in the last week of the campaign that she wasn’t going to be premier after June 7th likely saved the Liberals from a near total wipeout.
“In three years of thinking about that, no one ever thought about lowering the price of beer, it just wasn’t on our radar.”
Herle, considering what the Liberals could have done different in a campaign where they were offering free prescription medications, free post-secondary education and free child care.
“Nobody in the industry really wanted or needed the program. We were plenty busy as it was.”
Scott Slingerland, a Niagara-area window installer, not upset at the demise of Green Energy Fund, one of Doug Ford’s first acts after winning the Premier’s office.
“Right now, you can get a $14,000 rebate, but the Conservatives will probably end that. We’re telling people to get the rebate while they can.”
John Dixon, President of the Ontario Tesla Owners Club, using Ford’s promised cancellation of the Green Energy Fund to push the sale of electric Tesla vehicles.