Last Friday, Doug Ford became Ontario’s 26th premier. He holds a 76 seat majority at Queen’s Park, and for the next four years, he is our premier. He was elected with a mandate to bring change to Ontario, styled as the provinces’ first “Government for the People”.
Bravado aside, Ford has his work cut out for him. The province faces a deficit, soaring electricity prices, and a sputtering economy. And that was before the trade war between the United States and Canada which has already seen Ontario companies start to lay off employees.
Out of the starting gate, Ford’s cabinet choices have been criticized for the lack of diversity. Seven of the 21 cabinet posts are held by women; Raymond Cho is the only visible minority serving in cabinet. But this may be on the surface. The experience those people bring to the table may tell a different tale. Key ministries in the Ford cabinet are led by women. These include Health Care, Office of the Attorney-General, Education, Labour, and Social Services.
Ministries that affect rural communities like South Dundas are actually represented by members from rural ridings. This was not the case in the previous government.
The professional backgrounds of those appointed to cabinet are broad. There are three lawyers at the table, but also a doctor, two nurses and a pharmacist. Four ministers have a background or experience in media or broadcasting, four in finance, one is a former federal cabinet minister and at least 10 are or were long-term business owners. In addition, at least eight served in municipal government as elected officials or have worked in municipal administration, and in some cases both. On paper, this is an impressive team.
Ford has created balanced representation across Ontario, with all regions of the province “at the cabinet table.” Again, something that could not be said with the previous government.
In Ford’s inaugural address to the crowd at Queen’s Park the premier said he knew many did not vote for him. He pledged that he was going to work hard to represent all Ontarians. It is our hope that he will do this, actually represent all Ontarians. The view of rural Ontario for far too long has been that Toronto dictates, and we all follow.
With this team around the cabinet table, and a pledge to represent us all, perhaps change is a good thing.