By Chad Ingram
The premier of Ontario certainly knows how to make headlines, even during the political off-season.
Last Thursday, Doug Ford announced he was making a cabinet shuffle, a very large one. It’s the second shuffle Ford has made during his first year in office, the first one occurring last fall, but this one was much wider in scope. Some two thirds of the previous cabinet were moved to new portfolios – Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott was switched from the labour file to infrastructure – and there were some very high-profile demotions.
Former finance minister Vic Fedeli was removed from his post after tabling just one budget – a rarity – and Caroline Mulroney lost her position as the province’s attorney general. Fedeli has been the fall man for Ford on many occasions, taking the brunt of Opposition slag during a number of controversial decisions, so the move seems to almost amount to betrayal. Often, cabinet shuffles amount to little more than lipstick on a pig or rearranging the deck furniture in an attempt to save a sinking ship – pick whatever analogy you like – but moving ministers, who are largely figureheads spewing talking points, from one portfolio to another is not likely to change the dogma of a government, that dogma often coming directly from that government’s leader.
It seems pretty clear though that something is happening within the PC party. The really interesting thing last week was not the cabinet shuffle, but the resignation of Ford’s chief of staff just a day later. Dean French resigned Friday following a couple of high-paying, nepotistic patronage appointments – one to a relative, and one to a friend of his son’s – with those appointments quickly revoked. It seems abundantly clear that in the wake of the shuffle and the patronage controversy, there was a conversation between PC MPPs and Ford. Remember this is a party that not very long ago devoured its last leader.
It’s been reported that French, the most powerful, non-elected member of the government, was not particularly well-liked by a number of MPPs. It was apparently French who would keep tabs on which MPPs refuse to stand and clap like seals every time a new piece of legislation is passed in Queen’s Park.
Perhaps his absence will mean the end of corny, synchronized social media posts from MPPs promoting the government’s latest policies, like the day they were all instructed to take pictures of themselves gassing up in their ridings before the federal carbon tax kicked in, or the day they were all instructed to take pictures of themselves at a convenience store in their riding promoting the sale of beer in corner stores. The behaviour is demeaning to watch, and presumably demeaning to endure.