By Pauline Kerr
Only a year into its mandate, Premier Doug Ford’s conservative government did a major cabinet shuffle last week. The cabinet re-set involved a number of ministers whose ministries have received considerable media attention in recent months. Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson is among those affected. She’s been moved from the high-profile education ministry to the ministry of government and consumer services. Thompson made it clear in an interview the same day as the new cabinet was sworn in that she plans to hit the ground running. After meeting with her “new team,” she said she’s “ready to go.” She said she plans to take what she accomplished in the education ministry and use it to find efficiencies throughout government, in essence, to “change how government works.” “We’re looking at new business models,” Thompson said. This will include eliminating redundancies, consolidating service delivery and generally looking at “how we can be better.
“It’s a matter of how do we serve the people of Ontario … simpler, faster, better.” Thompson said it’s the same as was being done in education – instead of having 72 separate boards, each with its own way of doing things, there’s an opportunity to “use similar systems, combine purchasing power … I appreciate the opportunity the premier has given me.” Thompson stressed that her focus will be on “providing efficient, effective service while protecting the consumer.” That means spending tax dollars wisely. The education ministry has been in the news right from the start, beginning with putting the new sex education curriculum on hold until public consultations could be conducted, and continuing with recently announced increases in class size. Thompson said she’s proud of what she’s accomplished in the past year in education, in particular making agriculture and agrifoods part of the Grade 9 and 10 curriculum. Her major point of pride is receiving unanimous support – that’s support from all parties – for her safe and supportive classrooms legislation. Thompson’s immediate plans were to spend a quiet weekend and get to work Monday with her new team. The former minister of government and consumer services, Bruce Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker, is now the associate energy minister. Stephen Lecce, new to the cabinet, is now the education minister. The highest profile cabinet minister to be shifted from his position is former finance minister Vic Fedeli, who brought in the government’s first budget. He’s been replaced by Rod Phillips. Fedeli is now minister of economic development, job creation and trade, as well as being cabinet chair. Two other prominent cabinet ministers, Lisa MacLeod and Caroline Mulroney, have also been moved to new positions; MacLeod, from the ministry of children, community and social services to tourism, culture and sports, and Mulroney, from her post of attorney general to transport minister. Doug Downey is the new attorney general, while Todd Smith takes over as minister of children, community and social services. Christine Elliott continues as deputy premier and health minister, although that portfolio now has two additional ministers, Merrilee Fullarton (long-term care) and Michael Tibollo (mental health and addictions). A press release from the premier’s office stated, “These changes will ensure that the Government of Ontario will effectively continue with its agenda of creating good jobs, supporting small businesses, putting more money in people’s pockets and restoring trust and accountability in government, while also protecting what matters most through sound investments in health care and education.” The press release further stated that the Ford government, in its first year, has completed or put into action “85 per cent of the total commitments made to the people of Ontario.” This includes 20 pieces of legislation passed in 117 days, through four sittings of the Legislature