Rapid Recap: Unpacking a Week of Transitions Within the Ontario Government
Friday, September 22, 2023- Today, Premier Ford announced changes to his Cabinet following the resignations of Monte McNaughton and Kaleed Rasheed.
This is the second cabinet shuffle in two weeks for the Ford Government. On September 4, following Steve Clark’s resignation as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra stepped into the role of Housing Minister while Stan Cho succeeded him as Minister of Long-Term Care.
While there were no changes to the health portfolio, the full details of today’s shuffle are as follows:
- David Piccini, MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, replaces Monte McNaughton as Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development, previously serving as Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
- Andrea Khanjin, MPP for Barrie-Innisfil, replaces David Piccini as Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, previously serving as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. She will retain additional responsibilities as Deputy Government House Leader.
- Todd McCarthy, MPP for Durham, replaces Kaleed Rasheed as Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery, previously serving as the Associate Minister of Transportation.
- Vijay Thanigasalam, MPP for Scarborough-Rouge Park, replaces Todd McCarthy as Associate Minister of Transportation, previously serving as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Infrastructure.
Biographies of the new Ministers can be found at the end of this memo.
Unfolding Greenbelt Developments
On Thursday, Premier Ford announced the current government would reverse its decision to develop the Greenbelt. On November 4, 2022, Steve Clark announced Ontario would remove 2,994 hectares in 15 different areas of the Greenbelt, while adding 3,804 hectares elsewhere, in order to build 50,000 homes. It contradicted a pledge he made in 2021 not to open up the Greenbelt “to any kind of development.”
Following this decision, Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner and Auditor General both announced they would conduct separate investigations into Steve Clark and Premier Doug Ford based on complaints made by NDP Leader Marit Stiles.
On August 9, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that of the 15 sites suggested for removal from the Greenbelt, 14 were recommended by Clark’s chief of staff Ryan Amato, who was given packages at an industry event by two key developers, and that developers who had access to the top staffer wound up with 92 per cent of the land that was removed. Amato resigned 13 days later.
Kaleed Rasheed Departs Cabinet Among Controversy
Kaleed Rasheed, first appointed to Cabinet two years ago, resigned as Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery Wednesday morning after continued questions about his trip to Las Vegas at the same time as a developer, Shakir Rehmatullah, whose company owned land in the Greenbelt. Rasheed seemed to give conflicting testimony to the Integrity Commissioner about the timing of his trip and whether he interacted with Rehmatullah. Media reports indicated that the two both received massages at the same time.
Rasheed stepped down from the Progressive Conservative caucus. In a statement Premier Ford said, “If Mr. Rasheed can clear his name through the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, he will be provided an opportunity to return to caucus.”
Monte McNaughton’s Surprise Departure
In a shock decision Friday morning, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton announced he was leaving politics to accept a position in the private sector. McNaughton has been a key member of Premier Ford’s Cabinet, having his portfolio expanded over the years, and was central to crafting the government’s “working for workers” image.
McNaughton’s exit will also be a political loss for the government. Known as a strong fundraiser, McNaughton also made significant inroads with wooing private sector unions, several of which endorsed the Progressive Conservatives in last year’s election. This work led many to speculate that McNaughton was a leader-in-waiting, with the public profile and organization at the ready if Premier Ford were to step down as leader. Now, if he harbors leadership ambitions, he’ll have to hop back into politics later down the line.
While his resignation is not linked to the evolving Greenbelt scandal, he represents the third cabinet minister Premier Ford has lost in as many weeks, as well as a number of prominent staffers.
The next few months will prove to be difficult for the Ford Government, with the House expected to return on Monday, September 25. It is likely both the NDP and the Liberals will try to capitalize on and benefit from the controversy around the Greenbelt.
During the next legislative session, the NDP are expected to try to dominate the time in the legislature. Earlier today, Leader of the Opposition Marit Stiles posted on X, saying the government is “in complete and utter disarray, fractured after lurching from scandal to scandal.” With the legislature set to return next week, Stiles and the NDP are expected to continue to hammer the government on ethical concerns.
With the Liberals in the middle of a leadership race, and without official party status in the legislature, they may find it challenging to claim victory on the Greenbelt. This will be especially true if Mississauga Mayor, and frontrunner, Bonnie Crombie is chosen as leader in December. Crombie initially claimed an openness to land swaps in the Greenbelt — a policy very similar to the one Premier Ford just walked back.
The government does not have to contest an election for another two years and eight months. While there is a lot of time to change the channel, it is widely rumored that more investigations are to come and this may only be the beginning of resignations.
- Read the Government of Ontario press release here.
About The New Ministers
The Honourable David Piccini
David Piccini is the MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South and the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills. He previously served as the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Colleges and Universities.
David began his career with the Federal Public service, first as an International Market Analyst at Agriculture Canada, then as a Policy Advisor at Service Canada. Following his time in the public service, David then took a position in the Office of the Minister of International Trade, working with the Honourable Ed Fast, where he contributed to key trade files, including the Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement.
In 2015, David was invited to join the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada where he provided strategic advice on policy, business and operational issues for the Royal College’s international activities. He oversaw and supported the development and implementation of critical projects around the globe.
While at the Royal College, David helped establish the Canadian International Health Education Association (CIHEA), a nationally incorporated non-profit trade association that brings together universities, colleges, health science centres and businesses across Canada involved in health care professions, training and health initiatives. Notably, David successfully led one of Canada’s largest healthcare trade missions to the Gulf region in early 2018.
The Honourable Andrea Khanjin
Andrea Khanjin is the MPP for Barrie-Innisfil and the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. Khanjin has previously served as the Deputy Government House Leader, Deputy Government Whip, and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
She graduated with honours from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor of Social Science Degree in Political Science.
As a student, Andrea was a constituency assistant for a Conservative MP and worked for three cabinet ministers. She plans to secure funding for infrastructure, make life in communities more affordable, and deliver an economic strategy that will help bring better-paying jobs.
The Honourable Todd McCarthy
Todd McCarthy is the MPP for Durham and the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery. Previously, McCarthy served as the Associate Minister of Transportation, and the Parliamentary Assistant to the President of the Treasury Board.
McCarthy is a well-respected and established lawyer in Durham and across Ontario and is the progressive conservative party of Ontario candidate for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.
He is a lawyer, a senior law partner of Flaherty McCarthy LLP, a part-time Deputy Judge at the Durham Region Courthouse, and the past President of the Durham Region Law Association. On the Durham Catholic District School Board, he was a Trustee and Vice Chair.
He also coached and sponsored minor hockey teams and taught Adjunct Law at Queen’s University and Justice and Emergency Services at Durham College. He also founded and supports Durham Abilities Centre.
He was awarded the Ontario Bar Association Insurance Law Award in 2021 and was named the 2019 Personal Injury Bar Defense Counsel Honoree by the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.
The Honourable Vijay Thanigasalam
Vijay Thanigasalam is the MPP for Scarborough-Rouge Park and the Associate Minister of Transportation. He previously served as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation.
He studied at the University of Toronto Scarborough and completed his Bachelor of Commerce in Finance at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. He worked as a financial advisor at one of Canada’s top banks.
He has volunteered as a youth leader and for former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander.