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From controversy to cabinet shuffle: What does this mean for Ontario?

From controversy to cabinet shuffle: What does this mean for Ontario?



In the wake of a tumultuous period marked by the Greenbelt land swap. controversy and the subsequent resignation of Ontario’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark (member of Provincial Parliament for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes) on Monday, Premier Doug Ford announced an unexpected cabinet shuffle to reinvigorate his government. This move comes after weeks of scrutiny in response to the Ontario Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake's investigation into the former minister’s chief of staff. While Minister Clark's departure was inevitable, the Premier took this opportunity to reassemble a strong and strategically balanced cabinet to refocus his government’s efforts.

The changes are as follows:

  • Former Long-Term Care minister Paul Calandra (MPP for Markham—Stouffville) has been appointed minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing;
  • Former president of the Treasury Board Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria (MPP for Brampton South) has been appointed minister of Transportation;
  • Former Transportation minister Caroline Mulroney (MPP for York—Simcoe) has been appointed president of the Treasury Board;
  • Former associate Transportation minister Stan Cho (Willowdale) has been appointed minister of Long-Term Care;
  • Rob Flack (MPP for Elgin—Middlesex—London) has been appointed associate minister of Housing with a specific mandate on attainable housing and modular homes;
  • Todd McCarthy (MPP for Durham) has been appointed associate minister of Transportation;
  • Nina Tangri (MPP for Mississauga—Streetsville) has been appointed associate minister of Small Business.

All other ministers will retain their existing portfolios, with Calandra continuing as the government house leader and Mulroney retaining her minister of Francophone Affairs appointment. Additionally, Andrea Khanjin (MPP for Barrie-Innisfil) will have an expanded role as deputy government house Leader.

What does this mean for your organization?

Looking ahead, Premier Ford and his government will be focused on addressing a number of pressing issues. At the forefront of the Premier’s new cabinet is Minister Calandra, now tasked with overseeing Municipal Affairs and Housing. Prior to provincial politics Minister Calandra also served under Prime Minister Harper during his tenure. Notably, Minister Calandra previously represented the Oak Ridges Moraine–Markham riding (now known as Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill) as a federal member of Parliament, a region encompassing parts of the Greenbelt, in the early 2000s.

Minister Calandra's first order of business was to spearhead a comprehensive review to reassess the remaining land swap sites. Given his connection to the Greenbelt, his role takes on heightened significance in shaping the future of development and the Greenbelt itself. While Calandra is uncertain what exactly the review will reveal, it is possible that it may require the government to remove or add lands.

In tandem with the review, Calandra has started negotiations with local governments to discuss community benefits. He wants to ensure natural heritage features on lands spanning the greenbelt are protected, in addition to introducing a “use it or lose it” policy that will require developers to build fast and efficiently to meet housing goals. It is worth noting that this is not the first time Calandra has been appointed to lead a ministry in hot water. Previously, he was brought in to replace former Long-Term Care Minister Rod Philips, during the peak of rampant COVID-19 infections within LTC homes.

Although Minister Calandra may not have a significant background in housing development and planning, the Premier trusts him to make things right. The refocused mandate for the newly appointed associate minister of Housing also speaks to Premier Ford’s commitment to ensure the housing issue is addressed.

Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, the newly appointed minister of Transportation, made a significant commitment during his 2022 re-election campaign on the construction of Highway 413. This proposed highway is one of three 400-series routes slated to be built through part of the Greenbelt. All eyes will be on Minister Sarkaria to see if he stands by this commitment. While President of the Treasury Board, Minister Sarkaria continued to support the province’s efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on expenditure management and fiscal responsibility.

Minister Mulroney has continued to ascend in Premier Ford's cabinet. From her first appointment as attorney general, to her stint as the minister of Transportation during a transformational period for the sector in Ontario, it was clear that she is a central figure in the Premier’s inner circle. Now as the president of the Treasury Board, she’ll oversee all government spending.

Industry and opposition reaction

Opposition parties have criticized this cabinet shuffle by claiming it is more of a conversation changer to take some heat off the Greenbelt discourse and Clark’s resignation. Ontario's NDP Leader Marit Stiles called the new cabinet a “slapdash team,” indicating her lack of faith in the new Cabinet to do better than before. Much of the opposition is unhappy with the length of time it took for Minister Clark to resign.

Industry partners will be eagerly awaiting the results of Minister Calandra’s review of the Greenbelt Land swaps. Specifically, developers who were counting on the space for new housing developments. The review will help stakeholders better understand the new Minister’s priorities and direction for not just the Greenbelt, but for all of Ontario.

Stakeholders with an invested interest in transportation should also keep their eyes open for changes and new opportunities as the previous minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney, assumes her new role as the president of the Treasury Board. We can expect some movements in Ontario’s budget in favour of transportation initiatives.

Moving forward

NATIONAL’s Public Affairs experts will be monitoring relevant developments and announcements coming out of these ministries. A few noteworthy items to consider:

  • The release of Minister Calandra’s review of the Greenbelt land swaps;
  • Possible speculation and cancellation penalties for developers;
  • Possible additional consumer protections including: increased penalties for cancellation of purchase agreements, increased penalties for extortion of purchase agreements, and increased non-resident speculation tax;
  • Potential shift in priority for the upcoming 2023 Fall Economic Statement and 2024 Budget;
  • A focused approach towards expanding and accelerating existing transportation projects.

In addition, Premier Doug Ford announced he has instructed the province’s attorney general to review current legislation governing lobbyists and add increased penalties, including jail time, if they break these rules. The possibility of increased accountability and penalties comes after the integrity commissioner’s review highlighted the role, power and unfair advantage political lobbyists had in the Greenbelt land swap controversy. Premier Ford is focused on ensuring that lobbyists understand the consequences of taking advantage of the advocacy system.

Issues of housing remain at the forefront for all levels of government. It will be critical to see how Minister Calandra and his associate minister of Housing collaborate with their federal and municipal counterparts, including Toronto’s new Mayor, Olivia Chow.

Access expertise at our in-person event

NATIONAL’s Toronto Public Affairs team will be hosting a breakfast event on Tuesday, September 12 with panellists that include former City Councillors, a former MPP, and industry experts. The focus of the conversation will be understanding Toronto under Mayor Chow’s leadership and what businesses can expect to see in the coming months. For more information and to register, visit: Toronto - Same City, New Mayor Tickets, Tue, 12 Sep 2023 at 7:30 AM | Eventbrite

——— Julia Bubelis is a former Associate, Public Affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations


Written by Stephen Adler | Stephanie Gomes | Chrishane Dilkumar | Julia Bubelis

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