TORONTO – Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne turned to her leadership rivals and some Liberal backbenchers for key positions in her new cabinet, which will be sworn-in Monday afternoon, The Canadian Press has learned.
Sources said leadership contender Charles Sousa, a former banker, will become Ontario’s new finance minister, taking over from Dwight Duncan, who will officially resign his Windsor seat on Thursday.
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, had expected Sousa would become finance minister after he dropped out following the leadership convention’s second ballot to support Wynne.
“Sousa shrewdly sort of positioned himself for that (portfolio), and he really raised his profile in this leadership race,” said Wiseman.
The sources said former school board trustee Liz Sandals will become Ontario’s education minister, tasked with trying to rebuild the Liberals’ relations with teachers who are angry over having contracts imposed on them.
Sandals, who served as president of the Ontario School Boards Association before being first elected in Guelph in 2003, will take over as education minister from Laurel Broten, who had become a focal point of teachers’ frustration with the government.
Broten is expected to remain in cabinet.
The sources said former Ottawa mayor Bob Chiraelli will take over the Liberals’ other problem plagued portfolio, becoming energy minister to replace Chris Bentley, who will officially resign his London seat on Thursday.
Chiraelli will be on the political hot seat immediately when the legislature resumes next week, with the Opposition demanding new hearings into the Liberals’ decisions to cancel gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, at a cost of at least $230 million.
Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray, who dropped out of the Liberal leadership race just before the convention to support Wynne, will become minister of transportation and infrastructure, said the sources.
Several sources told The Canadian Press that Deb Matthews, who co-chaired Wynne’s leadership bid, will stay on as health minister and could also become deputy premier.
“The fact that she threw her support behind Wynne and had the prominent role she had in that certainly reinforced their bonding,” said Wiseman.
“In fact I can see Wynne asking Matthews: ‘What do you want to do?’”
Wynne, who started calling ministers Sunday afternoon to inform them of their new jobs, had to balance everything from political egos to geographical concerns as she built the new cabinet.
Analysts say she had to take care of her leadership rivals for the sake of party unity, but fortunately for Wynne her two closest competitors — Sandra Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy — don’t have seats in the legislature and don’t have to be given plum posts.
Cabinet speculation started circulating the minute Wynne was crowned as Dalton McGuinty’s replacement at the leadership convention Jan. 26, especially on which loyal backbenchers could finally get promoted to the Liberal front rows, such as Sandals and Sudbury’s David Orazietti.
The premier-designate has promised to also find cabinet positions for leadership rivals Eric Hoskins and Harinder Takhar, even though Takhar supported Pupatello after dropping out of the leadership race.
Wynne already announced that in addition to being premier, she will also be sworn-in as agriculture minister to raise the Liberals’ profile in rural ridings, where they were virtually wiped out in the 2011 election that reduced them to a minority government.
Wiseman called the agriculture appointment a “peculiar” move that would be unlikely to convince any rural ridings to vote Liberal in the next election.
The Progressive Conservatives said if Wynne wants to send the right signal that she’s ready to reduce the size and cost of government she will bring in a cabinet of 16 ministers, far fewer than the 22 McGuinty had before the leadership race.
“I think that would be a good start, something that we suggested long ago,” said PC critic Monte McNaughton.
However, some observers expect Wynne may actually increase the size of cabinet Monday as she rewards those who supported her and promotes backbenchers who can help put a new face on the governing party’s front benches.
The New Democrats said they were taking a wait and see approach to the new cabinet, but expected to see a lot of familiar faces.
“Many of the people that are probably going to be in cabinet are going to be some of the same people that have been there before,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.