TORONTO — Premier Kathleen Wynne shuffled several senior roles in her cabinet Wednesday as she prepares for a provincial election less than five months away.
Deputy Premier and Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews, Treasury Board President Liz Sandals and Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid have all said they’re not running in the June election, and Wynne is filling those jobs with politicians who are up for re-election.
“I want to make sure that we have that team that’s going to carry us into the election and beyond,” Wynne said Wednesday after making an unrelated announcement in Barrie, Ont.
“The people who are no longer going to be in cabinet are people who have served this province very, very well.”
Mitzie Hunter moved from education minister to become minister of advanced education, Eleanor McMahon left her role as tourism, culture and sport minister to lead the treasury board, and Steven Del Duca was shuffled from transportation to economic development.
Indira Naidoo-Harris, who had been the status of women minister and minister responsible for early years and child care, will fill the job of education minister, while keeping her early years and child care responsibilities.
Kathryn McGarry was moved from natural resources to become the new transportation minister.
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In addition, three backbenchers were promoted into cabinet. Nathalie Des Rosiers, who was elected in Ottawa-Vanier in a byelection in November 2016, became natural resources minister, Daiene Vernile, who represents Kitchener Centre, is now minister of tourism, culture and sport, and Harinder Malhi, of Brampton Springdale, became the new minister of the status of women.
Many of the ministers involved in the shuffle represent ridings — largely in the key Greater Toronto Area battleground — that may see closely fought races in the election.
As well, the new cabinet is close to gender parity, with 13 women and 16 men.
“I think it is important to have diversity — gender and regional and background diversity — at the cabinet table and so that has been part of the consideration as we go into this cabinet shuffle,” Wynne said.
“It has been wonderful to have the people who have served for the last number of years, but the reality is there’s new experience and there’s a new perspective that can come to the table.”
The Progressive Conservatives likened the shuffle to rearranging chairs on a “sinking ship” and the NDP said the reason for the shuffle was to give Liberals at risk of losing their seats a title to pad their resume before the election.
Wynne last shuffled her cabinet in July, with a few moves to replace Glen Murray, who left as environment minister to become executive director of the Pembina Institute.
At that time, Chris Ballard became environment minister and Peter Milczyn was promoted to take over Ballard’s former post as housing minister.
Wynne has previously downplayed the effect of several senior cabinet members not running again, saying people sacrifice a lot to enter politics.
Speaker Dave Levac, the Liberal representative for Brant, and Monte Kwinter, Ontario’s oldest MPP, have also announced they won’t seek re-election.