It is now, officially, Premier Doug Ford.
Ford and his 20 fellow cabinet ministers were sworn in Friday at Queen’s Park by Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell three weeks after toppling former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.
“We have an all-star team that’s ready right now to give the people of Ontario the kind of leadership and direction they deserve,” the new premier, who is also intergovernmental affairs minister, said of his 14-man, seven-woman cabinet.
Christine Elliott, runner-up to Ford in the March 10 PC leadership, is the deputy premier and health minister. The Newmarket-Aurora MPP served as Wynne’s patient ombudsman before resigning to return to politics.
Vic Fedeli, who was interim Tory leader after Patrick Brown resigned in January, is the new finance minister. The Nipissing MPP was his party’s long-time opposition finance critic.
In a surprise move, MPP Lisa Thompson (Huron-Bruce), is the education minister. Thompson, a farmer, will have to stickhandle Ford’s controversial rewriting of the province’s sex-education curriculum.
Caroline Mulroney, who finished third in the March leadership, is the attorney general and minister responsible for francophone affairs. The bilingual daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney was elected for the first time in York Simcoe on June 7.
Rod Phillips, the newly elected Ajax MPP, has the daunting job of environment, conservation, and parks ministry.
Phillips, the former head of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., and Postmedia, will be tasked with keeping Ford’s promise to extricate the province from its cap-and-trade alliance with Quebec and California.
Peter Bethlenfalvy, newly elected in Pickering-Uxbridge, is the president of the treasury board. The Bay Street veteran will be responsible for the government’s purse strings — a key post as Ford has promised to cut $6 billion in annual spending.
Another new MPP, Merrilee Fullerton, a doctor representing Kanata-Carleton, is minister of training, colleges, and universities.
Also in cabinet is rookie Michael Tibollo, a lawyer and MPP for Vaughan-Woodbridge, as community safety and correctional services minister.
Veteran caucus members in cabinet are:
- Lisa MacLeod (Nepean), the ministry of children, community, and social services as well as women’s issues;
- Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey), a former minister and interim PC leader, is minister of economic development, job creation, and trade;
- Steve Clark (Leeds-Greenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes) is municipal affairs and housing minister;
- John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke) is transportation minister;
- Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock) is labour minister;
- Ernie Hardeman (Oxford), a former agriculture minister returns to that portfolio;
- Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex) is infrastructure minister;
- Jeff Yurek (Elgin-Middlesex-London) is natural resources and forestry minister;
- Todd Smith (Bay of Quinte) is minister of government and consumer services and government house leader
- Sylvia Jones (Dufferin-Caledon) is minister of tourism, culture, and sport;
- Raymond Cho (Scarborough North) is minister of seniors and accessibility and the only Toronto cabinet member other than Ford. Cho is also the lone visible minority cabinet minister.
Along with Wilson and Hardeman, the other cabinet member with ministerial experience is Greg Rickford (Kenora-Rainy River). Rickford, a first-time MPP who served in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet until he was defeated in 2015, is minister of energy, northern development and mines, and Indigenous affairs.
There will not be an Indigenous affairs minister for the first time in a decade. That separate department was a recommendation of the Ipperwash inquiry into the Ontario Provincial Police shooting death of First Nations protester Dudley George in 1995.
The consolidation is part of Ford’s leaner government of 21 ministers. Wynne, in contrast, had 28 ministers overseeing 30 departments.
“For too long, the people of Ontario have worked more and paid more, but gotten less. Those days are over. Help is here,” said Ford, who was to address people gathered outside following his formal instalment by Dowdeswell.
His swearing in caps one of the most improbable rises in Ontario political history.
Until Brown’s resignation on Jan. 24 — after a CTV News report alleged sexual impropriety against him — the Etobicoke native was gearing up for a rematch against Toronto Mayor John Tory in the Oct. 22 municipal election.
Tory had beaten the one-term city councillor in the 2014 Toronto vote. Ford had stepped into the breach in that contest after his brother, the late former mayor Rob Ford, fell ill and ended his re-election bid.
But his political career took a different turn after Brown — who has denied any wrongdoing and is suing CTV, which stands by its story, for $8 million — stepped down.
Ford plunged into the expedited Tory leadership race that Elliott, who had finished second to Brown in 2015 and third in the 2009 contest, was expected to win. But he narrowly beat her at the party’s chaotic March 10 convention in Markham even though she won the most votes and ridings.
His victory was a rebuke of the PC elite that had not even wanted him to be the candidate for Brown’s Tories in Etobicoke North. That’s because they were concerned about his mercurial reputation at Toronto city hall during his brother’s controversial term as mayor between 2010 and 2014.
But Ford ran a disciplined election campaign, securing 40.49 per cent of the popular vote on June 7 and with the Tories winning 76 of the 124 seats in the Legislature. His win ended almost 15 years of Liberal rule at Queen’s Park, dating back to Dalton McGuinty’s triumph on Oct. 2, 2003. Wynne was premier from February 2013 until Friday.
He is the first Tory premier since Ernie Eves.