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Doug Ford's cabinet shuffle

Faline Bobier

November 23, 2018

All is not well in the Doug Ford camp. The Ontario Premier announced a cabinet shuffle just days after the surprise resignation of Jim Wilson as Ontario’s minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade.

What was initially released from Ford's office was that Jim Wilson had resigned to seek treatment for 'addiction issues'. It soon became clear that Wilson had been forced to resign because of sexual misconduct allegations against him, made by a male Queen’s Park staffer. The premier’s office became aware of the claim late Friday afternoon, the same day they announced that Wilson was resigning for health reasons.

On the same day that Wilson resigned, Andrew Kimber, Ford’s Executive Director of Issues Management and Legislative Affairs, resigned after being confronted about multiple sexually inappropriate text messages he allegedly sent to a female staffer at Queen’s Park.

Wilson stepped down hours after appearing with Ford at a border crossing near Sarnia, Ont., earlier in the day where they unveiled a sign advertising Ontario as 'open for business'.

These are two high profile forced resignations and they put the lie to Doug Ford's statement when he announced a major cabinet shuffle in the aftermath of these resignations, only four months after his government took office: “After four months of unprecedented action, we are taking this opportunity to calibrate our cabinet assignments to ensure we continue to deliver on our commitments to the people. We have the best team in politics and a plan that is working."

Wilson, who was first elected in 1990, was one of the most experienced members of Ford's team, having previously served several cabinet portfolios for the PCs under the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves governments.

The so-called 'best team in politics' seems to be riven with problems, not least Ford himself, who has been accused of cheating his brother Rob Ford's widow out of her inheritance.

Many of Ford's MPPs do have previous experience in the Mike Harris government, which is not really a badge of honour. They have years of experience feeding at the public trough and axing services for ordinary people in Ontario. Under Doug Ford they promise to do more of the same, by refusing to bring in the $15 hour an hour minimum wage in January and by taking away the promise of two paid sick days for employees in Ontario.

Michael Tibollo relinquishes his role as Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones. Tibollo will now assume the role of Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

Tibollo's short tenure as the minister responsible for the OPP has been speckled with controversy. Most recently, media reports surfaced that Tibollo was criticized by the Ontario Securities Commission for his actions as a lawyer in the 1990s related to a $30 million stock fraud. 

But Ford was praising Tibollo as recently as four days before the cabinet shuffle. During question period, the premier called Tibollo "the most credible minister down here."
"He has integrity, he has transparency and he's an absolute champion. I'll stand beside him any day, 365 days a year," said Ford.

When Ford finally allowed the media to ask some questions about why Jim Wilson had really stepped down, he was very much on the defensive. "We acted decisive. We're very decisive. I have zero tolerance for this behaviour. It takes courage to come forward and speak truth to power."

According to Ford the reason his office initially claimed Wilson was stepping down in order to deal with addiction issues was that he wanted to protect the identity of the person who had come forward with sexual harassment claims.

This is clearly a bunch of hooey, since there would be no reason or need for the Ford government to disclose the identity of the person filing a complaint against Wilson.
Critics have voiced concerns about the suddenness of the cabinet shuffle, saying Ford needs to explain his reasons for making such significant changes so soon into his mandate.
“These actions make it abundantly clear that Ford is trying to paper over the problems in his hand-picked cabinet. To remove and demote a number of ministers after just a few months is troubling,” NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said in a news conference.

Singh also rightfully pointed out the cabinet shuffle is a "missed opportunity" for Ford to tackle diversity issues within his cabinet. As of 2016, about three-in-ten Ontarians identified as being part of a visible minority, but among the reconfigured Ford cabinet, only one minister isn't white.

The new cabinet also did little to address the gap in gender parity, with seven women and 14 men.

Doug Ford claims his is government 'for the people'. This might be true if 'the people' refers to his entitled, mostly white, mostly male buddies who he's appointing to high-paid government positions. It's no wonder they are falling like stones. Just like the recent spectacle of Brett Kavanagh being appointed to the Supreme Court in the US, with all the old white male Republicans gleefully supporting him and heaping scorn on the woman who had the courage to call him out for the sexist scumbag he is, the rot is there for all to see.

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