Premier Kathleen Wynne says she wants to “build up Ontario” but is playing up warnings the financial cupboard is bare now that the election is over.
“We have some difficult choices ahead of us,” Wynne said Tuesday after her new majority Liberal government – including eight female cabinet ministers and four newcomers — was sworn in Tuesday.
Wynne named her deputy premier Deb Matthews head of the Treasury Board to help Finance Minister Charles Sousa eliminate what is now a $12.5-billion annual shortfall by 2017-18, just months before the next election.
“It isn’t going to be all lollipops and rainbows,” said Matthews, whose post will include riding herd on contract negotiations with public sector workers, including teachers, and shepherding the government’s anti-poverty strategy.
She insisted the government will not be hostage to unions, some of which helped bankroll ads against Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservative plans for 100,000 public sector job cuts.
“Our budget was very clear that there was no more money for wage increases. . . . Everybody knows what the ground rules are.”
Sousa, who set July 14 as the day to re-introduce the left-leaning budget rejected in May by the Conservatives and NDP, seemed taken aback when asked whether he or Matthews has the final say on cuts.
“I’m still the finance minister,” he told reporters, pledging to work “very closely” with her and adding: “The boss is the premier.”
Teachers, however, could expect wage increases in contracts expiring at the end of August if their unions can find offsetting savings in “net-zero bargaining,” said Education Minister Liz Sandals.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean no wage increase . . . we are open to having discussions.”
Replacing Matthews at the $50-billion health ministry is Dr. Eric Hoskins, a family physician and the first doctor to hold the post since 1969.
“After having practiced medicine in this province for 25 years . . . it gives me a unique perspective at the front lines of health care and a sense of what individuals and their families really need,” he said.
Wynne’s cabinet has 27 members, with just over half from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
Meanwhile, the line is forming for the Speaker’s job refereeing the legislature when it returns next Wednesday for a rare summer session and a throne speech the following day outlining the government’s priorities.
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), Liberal MPP Shafiq Qaadri (Etobicoke North), and New Democrat Paul Miller (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek).
Wynne won the June 12 election with 58 seats to 28 Conservatives and 21 New Democrats, who lost the balance of power they held in the minority legislature.
Kathleen Wynne - premier and Intergovernmental Affairs
Deb Matthews - Deputy Premier, President of Treasury Board
Jim Bradley - Chair of Cabinet
Michael Gravelle - Northern Development and Mines
Ted McMeekin - Municipal Affairs and Housing
Brad Duguid - Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
Jeff Leal - Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Madeleine Meilleur - Attorney General, Francophone Affairs
David Orazietti - Government and Consumer Services
Liz Sandals - Education
David Zimmer - Aboriginal Affairs
Michael Chan - Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade
Reza Moridi - Research and Innovation, Training, Colleges and Universities
Yasir Naqvi -Community Safety and Correctional Services, Government House Leader
Charles Sousa - Finance
Eric Hoskins - Health and Long-Term Care
Glen Murray - Environment and Climate Change
Bob Chiarelli - Energy
Michael Coteau - Tourism Culture and Sport, 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games
Tracey MacCharles - Children and Youth Services, Women’s Issues
Mario Sergio - Seniors
Kevin Flynn - Labour
Bill Mauro - Natural Resources and Forestry
Helena Jaczek - Community and Social Services
Dipika Damerla - Associate Minister, Long-Term Care and Wellness
Steven Del Duca - Transportation
Mitzie Hunter - Associate Minister of Finance (Ontario Retirement Pension Plan)