Could a ministerial mash up be just what the doctor ordered for a floundering Premier Doug Ford as the Ontario legislature heads to an extended barbecue season circuit?
All signs were pointing to any honeymoon between the electorate and the Premier being decidedly over in recent polls but the impetus of change up to the cabinet received a rather large anecdotal assist at the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship celebration at Nathan Phillips Square.
The tens of thousands of leather lunged Raps fans within ear shot of the stage certainly let the Premier know what they thought of his first 365 days or so in office.
Word around the campfire was that PC Staffers and Ford himself were shocked by the reception but this follows poor public receptions earlier this spring including a round of boos at the Ontario Special Olympics reception.
Ousted in Thursday’s cabinet shuffle were Ford loyalists such as Vic Fedelli who the premier praised after tabling his first provincial budget just two months ago.
After battling with parents of autistic children for what seemed like months, Lisa MacLeod was sent packing from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to become Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Lisa Thompson spoke in support of all the cuts the province was levelling to public education in Ontario and Ford chose to lift the MPP from Huron-Bruce and her reward was to be shuttled to the Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
Locally, shifting Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith from that aforementioned portfolio to Minister of Children, Community and Social Services could wind up being wise.
While Smith has had his fair share of detractors in the area due his government’s cuts to education and other public sector concerns, a dose of the “Friendly City Smitty’ charm coupled with decisions of substance that are made with careful forethought and rolled out in straightforward way so the public can clearly understand the reasoning behind it would at least help prop up one of the many beleaguered portfolios.
Another curious aspect to the cabinet shuffle was its expansion.
Upon taking power in 2018, Ford cut his number of cabinet ministers from 29 to 21, merging some portfolios while eliminating some ministries such as the Ministry of the Status of Women all together.
Ford’s message of 2018 of running a smaller, more efficient government after taking over for the Liberals is apparently not something he is either interested in or able to forge ahead with.
But make no mistake, this Ford orchestrated shuffle has to be a reckoning of poor popularity and bad polls even in typical Tory strongholds.
In appointing his initial cabinet, Ford talked of assembling a team of All Stars.
Well, you don’t break up a team of All Stars because everything is clicking along fine and dandy.
Of course, there will be plenty of time for MPPs to research their new postings as the Ontario legislature takes one of its longest summer breaks, not returning to the house until Sept. 28, well after the upcoming federal election.
There’s a well bandied-about theory this break comes as Ontario’s Conservative Party of Canada numbers, surging in other locales , are flagging in Ontario and having the provincial brethren out of the spotlight for an extended period of time might make it easier for Andrew Scheer and company.
By the way, if this corner ever hears of a Tory complaining about the two month “summer vacation” teachers receive after this government decided to cease operations at Queen’s Park until late September, it will be far too soon.
Regardless of the outcome of this cabinet shuffle, clearly the ‘Party of the people’ can hear the song the provincial populace is singing. And it’s not a tune to their liking.