With less than five months to the next election, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has shuffled several senior roles in her Cabinet. The goal of the shuffle was to replace members of Cabinet who will not be running in the election and to bring new faces to the table in ridings that will be important in a very tight election. Also, the moves increased the number of women at the Cabinet table, bring the Premier closer to the goal of gender parity.
Several Cabinet ministers have been rewarded with promotion to more senior roles. In the biggest move, Steven Del Duca is the new Minister of Economic Development and Growth, replacing Brad Duguid and Kathryn McGarry moves from Natural Resources and Forestry to replace Del Duca at Transportation. Mitzie Hunter moves up from Education to replace Deb Matthews as Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, while Eleanor McMahon moves from Tourism, Culture and Sport to replace Liz Sandals as President of Treasury Board. Indira Naidoo-Harris also gets a big boost, adding Education to her role as Minister Responsible for Early Years and Child Care.
The shuffle welcomes three newcomers to the table, each of whom represents potentially hotly contested ridings. Harinder Malhi (Brampton-Springdale) is now the Minister of the Status of Women. Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre) becomes the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, replacing Eleanor McMahon in that role. Nathalie Des Rosiers (Ottawa-Vanier) is the new Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, succeeding Kathryn McGarry in that role.
With the election fast approaching, expect a steady stream of announcements from key portfolios such as Transportation, Economic Development and Growth and Education. Many observers are saying to keep an eye out for mid-to-late February for an early budget. Once that’s tabled, the government will swing fully into campaign mode, as evidenced by a major speech planned by the Premier at the Empire Club for February 26th.