The Inside Agenda Blog

The New Wynne Ministry

by Steve Paikin Tuesday February 12, 2013

The handshake that's never happened before in 145 years: Ontario's lieutenant-governor welcoming a female premier.

Yes, many other jurisdictions in Canada have already been there, and yes, even before Kathleen Wynne swore an oath to be the best premier of Ontario she can be, almost two-thirds of Canadians lived in provinces or territories governed by women.

Still, there was something historic about watching the first woman in 145 years placing her hand on The Bible and becoming Ontario's first minister. It was also the first time in 70 years that one Liberal government transferred power to another -- so a doubly historic day.  

Another shot for the history books: once both former education ministers, now both premiers: William Davis shakes hands with Kathleen Wynne as Lieutenant-Governor David C. Onley leads the procession into the legislative chamber.

Kathleen Wynne has put her team in place and now the province watches to see whether she can, in fact, bring a different style of governing to Queen's Park -- a more inclusive style that can include the opposition more frequently, and keep this 16-month old provincial parliament alive a little longer. Or maybe a lot longer.

Ontario's 20th premier, David Peterson, in conversation with former Lieutenant-Governor Hal Jackman.

The opposition will have its chances to bring down the Wynne Government in short order. There's a Speech from the Throne next week, then a budget shortly thereafter. We'll see whether Wynne's vaunted skills as a mediator can work in what has been one of the most poisonous atmospheres in Canadian politics today.

Here's a rundown of Wynne's new team, featuring some significant promotions for former Dalton McGuinty ministers, some demotions, a lot of newcomers, and minus some veteran faces that aren't there anymore (Dwight Duncan, Rick Bartolucci, Chris Bentley).

Ontario's 24th premier, Dalton McGuinty, escorts Ontario's 18th premier, William Davis, to his seat.

It should first be said that unlike most leadership convention victors, Wynne caught a break because two of her opponents didn't have seats and therefore didn't have to be included in this cabinet (Sandra Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy).

Having said that, numerous sources have suggested that there were numerous back channel conversations between representatives of both Wynne and Pupatello, who explored trying to get Pupatello to return to public life in the finance portfolio. In the end, Pupatello resisted the entreaties. Getting Pupatello back into cabinet would have ideologically balanced the top two jobs in government (premier and finance minister), would have done wonders for party unity, would have made a huge statement about the influence of women in this government (four of the top five jobs would have gone to women), and would have made Ontario politics that much more interesting.

In the end, it didn't happen.

Instead, Wynne took the expected approach, giving the finance ministry to Charles Sousa (Mississauga South), whose unexpected move to Wynne after the second ballot at the January 26, 2013 leadership convention, helped seal her eventual victory.

Charles Sousa signs the oath of office and becomes Minister of Finance.

Also, as expected, Deb Matthews (London North-Centre) stays in the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, and becomes deputy premier as well.

Another unprecedented shot: both the premier and deputy premier (Deb Matthews) are women.

Liz Sandals (Guelph), until now only a backbencher, gets a huge promotion to Minister of Education. Her background as a former head of the Ontario Public School Boards Association means she knows the issues well. It's also fair to say that Wynne will be a very hands-on premier on the education file. She's already met with the teacher union heads as she tries to repair a relationship that worked well for eight years, but went right into the toilet this past year, thanks to the fight over Bill 115, the so-called "Putting Students First Act."

Laurel Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), the former education minister, is still in cabinet but has been demoted to Intergovernmental Affairs. Given the tumultuousness of the education file during her time there, she may actually be grateful for a chance to step out of the spotlight for awhile. Let's also remember that she supported Pupatello at the convention, thus there wasn't much of a need by Wynne to find a great job for her.

Eric Hoskins, another leadership candidate who supported Wynne, may have wanted the health portfolio. But instead, he'll spend the next period of time hopping on airplanes selling Ontario to the world. He's got the Economic Development, Trade and Employment ministry, a prestigious job in cabinet, but not at all consistent with Hoskins' skill set. Yes, he has experience around the world through War Child Canada, the organization he and his wife Samantha Nutt established. But that work involved saving children's lives, not drumming up business. Having said that, if Hoskins wants a second crack at the party leadership at some point in the future, this portfolio gives him a chance to develop some much needed economic chops.

Glen Murray dropped out of the leadership race to support Wynne before hitting the finish line. He ends up with a big promotion.

Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg and head of the Canadian Urban Institute, gets two portfolios to draw on his knowledge of city-building: Transportation and Infrastructure.

Bob Chiarelli (Ottawa West-Nepean) is moving into the spotlight. We'll see if he lives to regret it. He's the new Minister of Energy, meaning he'll have to answer a lot of questions about the hundreds of millions of dollars taxpayers are forking over thanks to McGuinty's decision to break the gas plant contracts in Mississauga and Oakville. Chiarelli tends to be a temperature-lowerer rather than temperature-raiser, so his skills mesh nicely there. But talk about an unpleasant assignment. He'll have to deal with the gas plants, the contempt proceedings in the legislature against his predecessor Chris Bentley (are those hearings now going to target Chiarelli? The opposition says yes), the anger in rural Ontario over windmills, other criticisms with the Green Energy Act, declining nuclear plant facilities, and the list goes on. One wonders whether Chiarelli thought "thanks but no thanks" even briefly, when he got the call to be energy minister. Having said that, he's thought to be a competent minister who at 71 years old, is a former mayor of Ottawa, and has a ton of experience in government.

Cabinet veteran Bob Chiarelli has the unenviable task of becoming Energy Minister.

The cabinet features plenty of newcomers, as Wynne tries to put a fresh coat of paint on things. David Zimmer (Willowdale), an early backer of Wynne's leadership, gets Aboriginal Affairs.  Reza Moridi becomes the first Iranian-Canadian cabinet minister in any legislature in Canada ever. He represents Wynne's hometown of Richmond Hill and gets Research and Innovation.  Teresa Piruzza (Windsor West) takes on Children's and Youth Services. However, with both veterans Dwight Duncan (the retiring finance minister) and Sandra Pupatello now out of cabinet, she'll have big shoes to fill when representing Windsor's interests. 

Another of the 10 rookies in cabinet: Pickering-Scarborough East's Tracy MacCharles in Consumer Services.

Sometimes newcomers aren't that new. Mario Sergio is 72 years old, has been a west end Toronto MPP since 1995, and has never been in cabinet, until now. He's minister without portfolio, responsible for seniors. (He joked at the post-ceremony news conference that he's "a patient man.")  At the other end of the spectrum, Sault Ste. Marie's David Orazietti is 44 years old, and gets his first cabinet job too: Minister of Natural Resources. Yasir Naqvi, the party president and Ottawa Centre MPP, wins his first cabinet job, having just celebrated his 40th birthday during the Liberal leadership convention. He'll be Labour Minister.  Jeff Leal from Peterborough takes on Rural Affairs. Leal wrote the "rural strategy" for Wynne's leadership campaign and hopes to lead a Liberal renaissance in rural Ontario, where the Liberals were virtually shutout in the 2011 election. And Michael Coteau (Don Valley East, the riding right beside Wynne's) becomes the new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Once described by Greg Sorbara as "the best new member we elected in 2011," Michael Coteau is now in cabinet.

Yes, some of the old veterans are back as well: Jim Bradley (St. Catharines), the dean of the legislature, having been elected since 1977, is still Environment Minister.  John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands) is still Attorney-General. Madeleine Meilleur (Ottawa-Vanier) is still Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister. Ted McMeekin (Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale) is the new Minister of Community and Social Services. Linda Jeffrey is both chair of cabinet, and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

As Minister of Community and Social Services, Ted McMeekin is in charge of implementing the Lankin-Sheikh social assistance reforms. He had the best line of the day, when taking the oath of office. Instead of saying "so help me God," he paused after the "so," as if to beg God for help to do his job. The entire place cracked up.

No longer party president, Yasir Naqvi becomes Labour Minister.

Brad Duguid (Scarborough Centre), a Pupatello supporter, loses the high profile Economic Development portfolio, but gets Training, Colleges, & Universities. Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North), who appears to be successfully fighting cancer, stays in cabinet as Minister of Northern Development and Mines. Michael Chan (Markham) remains Tourism Minister, with responsibility for the 2015 Pan Am Games. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre) is Government House Leader. 

Harinder Takhar, as government services minister, holds the Great Seal of Ontario.

Wynne pledged not to be a vindictive leadership victor and she demonstrated that with Harinder Takhar (Mississauga-Erindale). Takhar supported Pupatello after dropping off the ballot, but he represents a constituency that is crucial to Liberal fortunes: the south Asian vote. So he becomes Government Services Minister and chair of the Management Board of Cabinet, one of those jobs that doesn't get a lot of publicity, but is a crucial behind-the-scenes position.

Thunder Bay's Michael Gravelle has lost his hair due to a fight with cancer. But he says his energy is good and thus remains in cabinet.

Robert Benzie, the Toronto Star bureau chief, pointed out that all 10 MPPs who supported Wynne for the leadership made cabinet. Just eight of Pupatello's 25 supporting MPPs are in.  

Three former premiers attended the ceremony: from left to right: David Peterson, Dalton McGuinty, and William Davis. Former Lieutenant-Governor Hal Jackman is at the centre of the picture.

In terms of geographic representation, the Wynne Cabinet looks like this:

  • eight and a half ministers are from the City of Toronto (Tracy MacCharles represents Pickering-Scarborough East, which straddles both the city and Durham Region)
  • five and a half ministers are from the 905 Region (broken down: three from Peel, two from York, a half from Durham, and none from Halton)
  • four ministers hail from Southwestern Ontario
  • four ministers come from Eastern Ontario
  • two ministers are from the Hamilton-Niagara area
  • two are from Northern Ontario
  • just one is from Central Ontario because, of course, the Liberals have so few seats in rural Ontario

Ontario's 18th premier, William Davis, shares a laugh with Ontario's Fairness Commissioner, Jean Augustine, while two former Liberal premiers, David Peterson and Dalton McGuinty confer to the left.

In terms of gender breakdown, Wynne's cabinet features 19 men and eight women. Premier Bob Rae's cabinet featured 11 women back in the 1990s, still the record.  However, it should also be said that never have so many women had so many of the cabinet's top jobs: premier, deputy premier, health, and education --- four of the top five positions.

Of course, with the pageantry of yesterday's swearing-in now out of the way, the real work begins.

For more of The Agenda's coverage of Ontario politics, visit our Ontario politics feature page