Editor's note: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a Village Media website devoted exclusively to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.
Premier Doug Ford shuffled his cabinet for the second time this month, one day after he pulled a shocking U-turn on the Greenbelt land removals.
Ford had two spots to fill following a rather eventful week that saw Monte McNaughton and Kaleed Rasheed leave cabinet.
Former environment minister David Piccini now heads up the Ministry of Labour following McNaughton’s announcement Friday morning that he was stepping down from cabinet and would be leaving politics.
Piccini served as environment minister since June 2021. He was recently criticized for “burying” a long-awaited report on how climate change will affect Ontario.
Todd McCarthy takes over public and business service delivery from Rasheed, who resigned on Tuesday after he admitted to giving the integrity commissioner incorrect information about a February 2020 trip he took to Las Vegas at the same time as a prominent developer and two key government staffers.
McCarthy was elevated to cabinet a few weeks ago after the first September shuffle prompted by former housing minister Steve Clark’s resignation on Labour Day over his role in the Greenbelt scandal.
Andrea Khanjin replaces Piccini as environment minister. She was also involved in the Labour Day shuffle, getting an expanded role as deputy government house leader.
Vijay Thanigasalam goes from Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma’s parliamentary assistant to associate minister of transportation.
McNaughton’s decision leaves a big hole in the PCs’ electoral machine.
The longtime frontbencher was seen as one of the government’s most capable ministers and was credited with winning endorsements from private sector unions that normally throw support behind other parties.
McNaughton said his decision was unrelated to the Greenbelt controversy and that it’s something he’d been mulling over for months.
"I realize that recent events will cause some to speculate about the reasons for my departure. I want those people to know that my decision is completely unrelated to those events," he said in a statement.
Friday is the second time in three weeks Ford was forced to rearrange his ministers.
The Labour Day shuffle saw Paul Calandra, previously minister of long-term care, take Clark’s spot in one of the government’s most important ministries. Calandra kept his other role as government house leader.
Stan Cho, previously associate transport minister, replaced Calandra in long-term care.
Former transport minister Caroline Mulroney swapped jobs with former treasury board president Prabmeet Sarkaria.
Rob Flack was elevated from the back benches to associate minister of housing, focused on attainable housing and modular homes, while Nina Tangri became associate minister of small business.
Ford tried to stem the bleeding caused by the Greenbelt scandal by announcing a complete reversal on Thursday.
“It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt. It was a mistake to establish a process that moved too fast,” he said. “This process, it left too much room for some people to benefit over others. It caused some people to question our motives.”
“I’m very, very sorry,” he added.