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Bienvenue à la Ford Nation

Les progressistes conservateurs de l’Ontario ont officiellement pris le pouvoir vendredi après près de 15 ans dans l’opposition, alors que Doug Ford et un cabinet allégé ont été assermentés à l’Assemblée législative. Monsieur Ford devient le 26e premier ministre ontarien.

Un reflet de sa promesse de couper les dépenses à Queen’s Park, le cabinet ne comporte que 21 personnes (incluant le premier ministre), dont 7 femmes. (Rappelons que le cabinet de Kathleen Wynne a déjà compté jusqu’à 30 limousines.) Pour ainsi faire, le premier ministre Ford a fusionné plusieurs portefeuilles ministériels, dont l'Énergie, le Développement du Nord, les Mines et les Affaires autochtones. Ce ministère tombe sous la gouverne du ministre Greg Rickford, dont le comté se situe dans le nord de l’Ontario ; Rickford déjà servi comme ministre des Ressources naturelles sous Stephen Harper. Cette décision pourrait semer la controverse, les leaders autochtones ayant plaidé pour le maintien d’un ministère à portefeuille unique en Affaires autochtones.

Comme le premier ministre Ford n’avait pas à récompenser beaucoup de députés l’ayant soutenu pendant sa campagne (il n’y avait que deux élus dans son camp), il avait les coudées franches pour composer son cabinet, et nous pouvons en déduire qu’il fait confiance aux personnes qu’il a nommées. Il a ainsi nommé Christine Elliott, ex-rivale à la chefferie, ministre de la Santé et vice-première ministre. Vic Fedeli, ancien critique des Finances à l’opposition, est nommé ministre des Finances.

Le gouvernement a tout de suite signalé son intention faire suite à ses promesses de sortir l'Ontario du marché du carbone commun avec le Québec et la Californie et de réduire le coût de l’essence de 10 sous le litre, alors que l’Assemblée reprendra ses travaux le 9 juillet.

Dans le billet qui suit, nos experts en relations gouvernementales présentent une analyse des ministères clés et de ce qu’on peut s’attendre de leurs mandats. (Le billet est en anglais.)

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Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives officially took power Friday after nearly 15 years in opposition as Doug Ford and a new, leaner cabinet were sworn in during a ceremony that included a public walkabout on the grounds of Queen’s Park.

Mr. Ford becomes Ontario’s 26th Premier.

His cabinet has 21 members (including himself) compared to that of former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose cabinet at one point increased to 30 members. Seven of the new ministers are women.

This sleeker cabinet is in keeping with Premier Ford’s campaign promise to find efficiencies and cut costs at Queen’s Park.

To achieve this, Premier Ford merged previous standalone ministerial portfolios with others, most notably Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Indigenous Affairs.

This new ministry falls under the purview of Greg Rickford.

Mr. Rickford, who represents a riding in northern Ontario, is a former federal minister. He served as Natural Resources Minister in Stephen Harper’s cabinet.

This move could prove controversial as Indigenous leaders had called on the new Premier to keep Indigenous Affairs as its own ministry.

Unlike some, Premier Ford was not under pressure to give cabinet positions to MPPs who supported him for leader – as only two MPPs (Raymond Cho and Toby Barrett) did so. He therefore had a free hand, and we can assume that this cabinet represents those he has trust in.

Premier Ford chose Christine Elliott, his leadership rival, to be Deputy Premier and Health Minister. Vic Fedeli, who represents a northern Ontario riding, is Finance Minister. Mr. Fedeli was the finance critic in opposition.

Leading up to the swearing-in ceremony, the policy promises of repealing cap-and-trade and reducing gasoline prices by 10 cents a litre dominated the news.

The PC government is aiming to take action on both items this summer as they look to come back for a short summer session on July 9.

REVENUE FILES

Minister of Finance – Vic Fedeli

Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade – Jim Wilson

Treasury Board President – Peter Bethlenfalvy

Mandate

  • Balance the budget in two years and maintain it to reduce provincial debt
  • Cut government spending by $6 billion without laying off public sector employees
  • Bring quality jobs back to Ontario by lowering taxes, stabilizing hydro bills and reducing red tape
  • Exempt workers earning minimum wage (less than $28,000) from paying taxes
  • Cut middle-class income taxes by 20 per cent
  • Cut small business tax rate from 3.5 to 3.2 per cent
  • Cut corporate tax rates from 11.5 to 10.5 per cent
  • Cut gasoline taxes by 10 cents a litre

Analysis

Minister Fedeli’s cabinet appointment comes as no surprise given his long-standing role as finance critic to the Wynne government. He had also served as the Interim Caucus Leader after Patrick Brown’s resignation and during the leadership campaign. Mr. Fedeli brings a unique entrepreneurial and small-business background into the finance role.

Minister Wilson returns to Cabinet for the first time since serving under former Premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves. He has served as Minister of Health; Minister of Energy, Science and Technology; Minister of Northern Development and Mines; and Minister of Environment. Minister Wilson also served as Interim Leader in 2014.

Minister Bethlenfalvy was one of the first star candidates the PC Party unveiled in 2017. He has extensive experience in the financial industry as the former Chief Investment Officer at CST Consultants, Senior Vice-President of Financial Regulations at Manulife Financial and Co-President of DBRS Ltd. On an interesting note, Minister Bethlenfalvy was Co-President at DBRS when the agency downgraded the Ontario’s debt ratings in 2009. Minister Bethlenfalvy often cites the Wynne government’s financial mismanagement as a motivator for entering political life.

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT FILES

Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs – Greg Rickford

Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks – Rod Phillips

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry – Jeff Yurek

Mandate

  • Develop the Ring of Fire
  • Review Hydro One’s executive compensation, and make structural changes to the executive management structure
  • Drive more customer savings by allocating Hydro One dividends back to ratepayers
  • Maintain the Fair Hydro Plan rate relief and provide an additional 12 per cent reduction
  • Place a moratorium on all new electricity generation contracts and review existing contracts for more savings
  • Remove the Smart Metering Charge on customer bills
  • Repeal Ontario’s existing cap-and-trade system and oppose the federally-mandated minimum price on carbon emissions, which will roughly offset $1.9 billion a year and save an average family $285

Analysis

Minister Rickford is a solid choice for his new role given his previous experience as the Minister of Natural Resources and Minister of Science and Technology, and Minister of the Federal Economic Development Initiative, all under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Most recently, Minister Rickford provided strategic advice to a number of companies in natural resources and Indigenous community engagement, as well as a Board Member for Noront Resources. Mr. Rickford is a strong advocate for the Ring of Fire development in Northern Ontario, holding a significant amount of expertise on the challenges facing its development.

There will likely be some criticisms over Minister Rickford taking on the Minister of Indigenous Affairs role in addition to Energy, Northern Development and Mines. Combining Energy, Northern Development and Mines signifies the government’s commitment to resource development in northern Ontario, the locationof Minister Rickford’s riding. Having Indigenous Affairs as part of this expansive portfolio will be controversial to some. Under the previous Ontario Liberal government, Indigenous Affairs was a standalone ministry.

Minister Phillips brings deep experience both in public and private service. Most notably, he is the former Chief of Staff to former Mayor of Toronto Mel Lastman, former CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and the former Chair of Postmedia. Minister Phillips’ strong communications background will help him in his new role immensely, especially as it pertains to repealing the cap-and trade system – a top priority for the new Ford government.

Minister Yurek is well-liked by his fellow caucus members and has held senior critic roles, including health. While he has limited experience in the NaturalResources sector, he is known for his strength in stakeholder outreach.

TRANSPORTATION FILES

Minister of Transportation – John Yakabuski

Minister of Infrastructure – Monte McNaughton

Mandate

  • Deliver two-way, all-day GO service, including expansions to Bowmanville, Kitchener and completing the Niagara GO Expansion
  • Support regional transit projects in places such as Ottawa, Hamilton, Mississauga/Brampton, Kitchener-Waterloo and London. This includes current transit projects, such as the Ottawa LRT – Phase 2 ($3.6 billion); Hamilton Transit ($1 billion), Hurontario LRT in Mississauga ($1.4 billion), Kitchener-Waterloo LRT ($325 million), and London Transit ($170 million)
  • Commit $5 billion in new TTC subway funding, adding to the roughly $9 billion already available to build new transit projects in Toronto
  • Commit $20 million for studies/Highway 401 improvements, $5 million per year for Highways 3 and 17 amortized over 50 years once completed
  • Granted priority consideration for future construction to several transit projects, including: the Sheppard subway to close the loop with the Scarborough Subway Extension, the Relief Line and the Yonge Extension to Richmond Hill
  • Build the Eglinton West and Eglinton East LRT expansions underground, where feasible

Analysis

After nearly 15 years in opposition, Mr. Yakabuski will finally have an opportunity to serve in government in a portfolio that is likely to see a lot of activity with the uploading of TTC construction and the continued expansion of the GO line. Minister Yakabuski will also lead the charge on exploratory efforts for key road improvements across Ontario.

Minister McNaughton is no stranger to the Ford family. During his 2014 – 2015 PC leadership bid, Minister McNaughton was endorsed by Premier Ford’s late brother Rob Ford. From an experience lens, he previously served as the Critic for Economic Development. He is also a former small business owner, and is a strong advocate against issues facing small business owners. In 2016, Minister McNaughton was part of a stand-up for small business and manufacturing tour across Ontario.

HEALTH FILE

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and Deputy Premier – Christine Elliott

  • Cut hospital wait times and end “hallway medicine” (when hospital overcrowding leads to patients being treated outside of private rooms)
  • Add 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years and 30,000 new beds over the next 10 year
  • Invest $3.8 billion in mental health, addictions and housing supports over 10 years
  • Increase autism funding by an additional $38 million to a total of $100 million over five years
  • Spend $98 million a year to provide free dental care to low-income seniors

Analysis

A close runner-up to Premier Ford during the most recent PC leadership race, Minister Elliott comes into caucus with years of experience working on the health care file as long-time PC Health Critic. In 2015, she became Ontario’s first Patient Ombudsman. Many stakeholders in the health space will be looking forward to working with Minister Elliott. Her knowledge of the file will serve her particularly well as she takes on the campaign promise to end hallway healthcare and deal with the challenges of an aging population.