There were few surprises for key posts at Kathleen Wynne’s swearing in as the 25th Premier of Ontario, when 26 Liberal Members of the Provincial Parliament were also sworn in as ministers.
Certainly, there was little surprise that Charles Sousa was appointed as finance minister after Sandra Pupatello could not be convinced to rejoin the Liberal government to fill that post. We guess she was only interested in being the boss and all that talk on election night about working together was just that, talk.
If Wynne was trying to put a new face on her government, she did, with 10 new cabinet ministers in the larger cabinet. But it was left to see how she would deal with the ministries carrying baggage from the old administration.
After the anger that followed the McGuinty government’s controversial decision to remove teachers’ right to strike, much would have to be done to win back their support. So the ineffective Laura Broten had to be replaced as education minister. She has been moved to another, although lesser, ministry. New education minister Liz Sandals, a former school board trustee and ex-president of the Ontario School Boards Association, seems to fit the bill and the teachers’ unions have signaled as much.
The other ministry that will be kept in focus by the Opposition is energy. The New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservatives will continue to hammer the Liberals on the cancellations of the two gas plants just prior to the last election which was seen as a ploy to win votes.
The Conservatives have already signaled that they will follow through on their contempt charges against the minister over the alleged withholding of documents on the cancellations even though the ministry is now in the hands of a new minister, Bob Chiraelli, following Chris Bentley’s resignation. With Bentley gone, Chiraelli may come clean. He should have no reason not to.
The political leader who would stand to lose the most when the House resumes sitting by pushing too hard to quickly bring down the Liberal minority government could be the New Democrat’s Andrea Horwath. She is in a good place right now to form some type of arrangement with Wynne to ensure stability and to show leadership, which could serve her well later on.
For most Ontarians, the Conservatives might have been the logical choice to replace the Liberals, but not with Tim Hudak as leader. Hudak, a protégé of former (and, for many Ontarians, despised) premier, Mike Harris, continues to show himself so out of touch with the electorate that even some Conservatives don’t give him much of a chance.
Selecting a cabinet has to be a tricky job as the premier tries to maintain a delicate balance. There are friends and supporters expecting their rewards, just or not, and she also has to show that she is not being mean-spirited towards former adversaries. Then she has to ensure that the various regions of this large and diverse province are fairly well-represented.
Apart from the fact that Wynne’s cabinet is much larger than McGuinty’s, she also had a lot of defections with the resignation of a number of high profile members. So, it would seem to us that she had enough room to do as she pleased.
That is one of the reasons why we are concerned with the absence from her cabinet of former minister, Jamaican-born Margarett Best, a two-time winner at the polls. While we welcome the addition of Michael Couteau to the cabinet as the new Citizenship and Immigration minister, we have to wonder why Best who, from all appearances, was doing an able job as Minister of Consumer Services, was dropped.
We would prefer not to think that Couteau is replacing Best, but have to wonder since Best was the only minister actually dropped. Is there some kind of quota in Wynne’s cabinet for Black ministers?
And what’s up with Trinidad-born Bas Balkissoon who has never held a cabinet post and is again left on the sidelines?
We want this new government to be successful, for the good of all Ontarians. But we can’t help but wonder if Wynne’s early moves suggest that she is going to take the Black community for granted.
That, we believe, would be a mistake.