Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a cabinet shuffle on Monday just days after the stunning resignation of Jim Wilson as Ontario’s minister of economic development, job creation and trade, last Friday.
Global News has learned from multiple sources that Wilson and another senior member of Ford’s staff were forced to resign due to allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour.
Wilson’s resignation forced Ford to make a number of cabinet moves on high-profile positions such as transportation and community safety.
John Yakabuski has been demoted from the transportation ministry to head the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London Jeff Yurek will assume the transportation file.
Michael Tibollo relinquishes his role as minister of community safety and correctional services to Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones. The MPP from Vaughan-Woodbrige will now assume the role of minister of tourism, culture and sport.
Government House Leader Todd Smith will also take over Wilson’s economic development file full time after filling the position on an interim basis.
Bill Walker, MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, has been appointed Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
Lorne Coe, MPP for Whitby, will now serve as the caucus whip and Doug Downey, MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, will be the deputy caucus whip.
“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,” Ford said in a statement.
“We have the best team in politics and a plan that is working.”
Ford’s office said last Friday that Wilson was resigning from the Progressive Conservative caucus “to seek treatment for addiction issues.”
According to sources, the sexual misconduct allegations against Wilson were made by a male Queen’s Park staffer and the premier’s office became aware of the claim late Friday afternoon.
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.
Global News also learned from multiple sources that Andrew Kimber, Ford’s executive director of issues management and legislative affairs, resigned Friday after being confronted about multiple sexually inappropriate text messages he allegedly sent to a female staffer at Queen’s Park.
The premier’s office issued a statement to Global News on Monday saying Wilson is “no longer a Minister of the Government, nor is he a member of the PC Caucus.”
“He has entered a treatment facility to deal with addiction issues,” the statement said.
The premier’s office also said it won’t comment on internal staffing matters with regards to Kimber’s resignation.
“Generally speaking, if allegations are brought forward to senior staff of the Government or the PC Caucus, a process is activated immediately and we provide staff with support and reassurance of their right to work in an environment that is free of harassment,” the premier’s office said.
“To protect the identity of any individual who brings forward an allegation, we would not comment on particulars.”
VIDEO: Ontario’s Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Minister Jim Wilson has resigned in order to seek treatment for “addiction issues,” according to a statement from the Premier’s Office.
The cabinet changes come just over four months after Ford led his party to victory in the spring provincial election.
Critics voiced concerns about the suddenness of the 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.
“I think it makes us wonder, you know, is this government ready to govern and are they ready to do the things that they need to do for Ontario’s families.”
–With files from Travis Dhanraj and The Canadian Press