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Doug Ford sworn in as Ontario premier

June 29, 2018
Robert Benzie

Premier Doug Ford will bring the legislature back to work on July 11 for a brief summer session to get his new Progressive Conservative government up and running.

Ford and his 20 fellow cabinet ministers took their oaths of office with Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell at Queen’s Park on Friday, three weeks after toppling former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.

The freshly minted government will table a speech from the throne to outline its agenda on July 12 and sit for about two weeks.

“To the people of Ontario, I stand before you today, truly humbled by the trust you have put in me, and intensely aware of the tremendous task that lies ahead,” said the new premier, standing at a podium under a sweltering sun on the front steps of the legislature, before a crowd of about 2,000 onlookers. “ ... You have trusted us to govern, to respect your tax dollars, to recognize that every dollar the government spends belongs to you.”

“We will never take this responsibility lightly,” Ford vowed. “We will never forget the trust you have put in us. We will never forget who put us here and who we are accountable to.”

The new premier also addressed a message to those who did not vote for his Tories, saying: “All I ask is for a chance to show you that life will be better with a government that is for all the people. That life will be more affordable.”

Ford plunged into the crowd after his speech, hugging supporters, shaking hands and posing for selfies.

He will also serve as minister of intergovernmental affairs in a 14-man, seven-woman cabinet that includes just one visible minority and only two Toronto MPPs. The new executive council is smaller than Wynne’s 28-member cabinet, and several ministries have been combined.

The new premier acknowledged he is taking power at a “critical juncture,” with U.S. President Donald Trump’s punitive tariffs against Canadian steel and aluminum exports taking effect and sensitive NAFTA negotiations stalled.

“We must not underestimate the gravity of this situation we face,” he said, also citing “years of fiscal mismanagement, record levels of debt and crippling interest payments” in Ontario.
Ford made his way outside after the swearing-in took place on the grand staircase in the humid lobby of the legislature, with cabinet ministers coming up one by one to take their oaths of office.

Christine Elliott, the runner-up to Ford in the March 10 PC leadership contest, is the deputy premier and health minister. The Newmarket-Aurora MPP served as Wynne’s patient ombudsman before resigning to return to politics.

Vic Fedeli, who was interim Tory leader after Patrick Brown resigned in January, is the new finance minister. The Nipissing MPP was his party’s longtime opposition finance critic.

"You have trusted us to govern, to respect your tax dollars, to recognize that every dollar the government spends belongs to you," the new premier, standing at a podium under a sweltering sun on the front steps of the Legislature, told about 2,000 onlookers.

In a surprise move, MPP Lisa Thompson (Huron-Bruce), is the education minister. Thompson, a farmer, will have to stickhandle Ford’s controversial rewriting of the province’s sexual education curriculum.

Caroline Mulroney, who finished third in the March leadership, is the attorney general and minister responsible for francophone affairs. The bilingual daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney was elected for the first time in York-Simcoe on June 7.

Rod Phillips, the newly elected Ajax MPP, has the daunting job of heading the Environment, Conservation and Parks Ministry. The former head of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., and Postmedia is tasked with keeping Ford’s promise to extricate the province from its cap-and-trade alliance with Quebec and California.

Peter Bethlenfalvy, newly elected in Pickering-Uxbridge, is the president of the Treasury Board. The Bay Street veteran will be responsible for the government’s purse strings — a key post as Ford has promised to cut $6 billion in annual spending.

Another new MPP, Merrilee Fullerton, a doctor representing Kanata-Carleton, is minister of training, colleges and universities.

Also in cabinet is rookie Michael Tibollo, a lawyer and MPP for Vaughan-Woodbridge, as community safety and correctional services minister.

A number of veteran caucus members were named to cabinet:

While Indigenous Affairs is still a stand-alone ministry, it will no longer have a dedicated minister.

Among the invited guests Friday were former premiers David Peterson, Bob Rae, Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, Toronto Mayor John Tory, former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, Torstar chair John Honderich, Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey, and Renata Ford and her two children.

The widow of Ford’s brother, former mayor Rob Ford, has filed a lawsuit against the new premier over her late husband’s estate.

Doug Ford’s inauguration caps one of the most improbable rises in Ontario political history.

Until Brown’s resignation on Jan. 24, Ford was gearing up for a rematch against Tory in the Oct. 22 municipal election.