There are eight women and four first-time ministers in Premier Kathleen Wynne’s new cabinet as she charts a course for a majority government that has four years to slay a deficit now pegged at $12.5 billion.
Rookies are getting responsibility for high-profile election promises, with Vaughan MPP Steven Del Duca in charge of Ontario’s $29 billion transportation rebuild — including $15 billion in the GTHA — and Mitzie Hunter of Scarborough-Guildwood serving as associate finance minister shepherding the fledgling Ontario Retirement Pension Plan.
Hunter will work under Finance Minister Charles Sousa, who is tasked with balancing the budget by the spring of 2018 at a time when Wynne has warned government unions there is no more money for pay increases in upcoming contract talks.
Wynne is putting a doctor, Eric Hoskins, who has previously held several cabinet posts and co-founded the charity War Child Canada, in charge of the $50-billion health system that had been run by Deb Matthews since 2009.
Hoskins will be aided by first-time minister Dipika Damerla, MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville, who becomes associate minister of Long-Term Care and Wellness.
Matthews remains deputy premier but becomes chair of Treasury Board where Wynne wants her to “champion” the government efforts on openness and transparency in the wake of the $1.1 billion gas plant scandal — where Ontario Provincial Police continue to investigate deleted documents — as well as take the reins of the Liberals’ promised poverty reduction strategy.
“The premier is putting an emphasis on the government’s priorities,” a senior government official said Monday, speaking on background.
Wynne won a majority government in the June 12 election with 58 seats in the 107-member legislature. The Progressive Conservatives picked up 28 seats, while the NDP won 21. The premier will outline her agenda in a speech from the throne next week.
After a swearing-in ceremony Wynne hailed the “clear mandate” she received from voters and affirmed the pledge to balance the budget in four years.
“That means we have some difficult choices ahead,” she warned.”
Glen Murray moves from Transportation to a renamed ministry of Environment and Climate Change, taking over for veteran Jim Bradley, who will stay as minister without portfolio to dispense advice and wisdom in cabinet.
Brad Duguid, who had been at Training Colleges and Universities, is getting a promotion.
The Scarborough Centre MPP takes over a reconstituted Ministry of Economic Development, Employment, and Infrastructure. He had served briefly at a smaller economic development department and at the old ministry of energy and infrastructure.
Gaining new authority is Research and Innovation Minister Reza Moridi, a nuclear scientist who will also run Training, Colleges and Universities.
The Pan Am Games, which are less than 13 months away, get a fresh minister after spate of challenges.
Michael Coteau of Don Valley East is the new Tourism, Culture and Sports and Pan Am minister.
He replaces Michael Chan, who moves to Citizenship, Immigration, and Trade.
The Games, which open July 10, 2015, will cost at least $2.5 billion. It’s the largest multi-sporting event in Canadian history hosting 7,666 athletes competing in 51 sports in 14 municipalities.
Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi adds government House leader to his duties.
Ted McMeekin, a former Hamilton city councillor and Flamborough mayor, who had been at Community and Social Services, becomes minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
McMeekin’s former responsibilities at Community and Social Services are being taken over by Dr. Helena Jaczek, the MPP for Oak Ridges-Markham.
Jaczek, a one-time chief medical officer of health in York Region, completes the rookie quartet in Wynne’s executive council.
No one was dumped from cabinet but there were other changes:
Bill Mauro leaves Municipal Affairs and Housing to become minister of the newly named Natural Resources and Forestry portfolio.
Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal adds Agriculture and Food to his portfolio, taking those duties from Wynne.
David Orazietti moves from Natural Resources to a revamped Government and Consumer Services ministry.
Tracy MacCharles, who was at Consumer Services, takes over the Children and Youth Services department, which had been run by Windsor West’s Teresa Piruzza, the lone Liberal incumbent minister defeated in the election.
Staying put are: Finance Minister Charles Sousa, Education Minister Liz Sandals, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, Attorney General and Francophone Affairs Minister Madeleine Meilleur, Northern Affairs and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, Seniors Minister Mario Sergio, and Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer.
Bob Delaney remains chief government whip.
Matthews is departing the Ministry of Health, which accounts for almost half the government’s program spending, as fallout continues from the troubled ORNGE air ambulance service.
ORNGE was recently slapped with 17 federal health and safety charges over a fatal helicopter crash in Moosonee, Ont., a year ago.
The agency also remains under Ontario Provincial Police investigation over questionable business practices under the reign of former chief executive Dr. Chris Mazza.
Meanwhile, the line is forming for the Speaker’s job refereeing the legislature when it returns next week for a rare summer session.
At the front of the queue is Liberal MPP Dave Levac (Brant), who held the job in the minority parliament that ended in early May.
Others said to be interested are MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park), one of two New Democrats who survived a Liberal wave that took out three other NDP members in Toronto, Progressive Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls (Chatham-Kent-Essex) and Grit MPP Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North).
“I believe I have provided a record of fair and equal service to the members and the Legislature. The members have a concrete example of the last term to decide if I am worthy of re-election,” Levac said.