Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak shuffled his shadow cabinet Tuesday, two days after firing finance critic Peter Shurman over his controversial use of the legislature’s expense account.
Vic Fedeli has been promoted to Mr. Shurman’s old job. Mr. Fedeli, an affable former mayor of North Bay, Ont., has been one of the Tories’ strongest performers since he was elected to the legislature in 2011. As energy critic, he has led the PCs’ attack on the Liberal government’s costly cancellation of two gas-fired power plants.
Mr. Fedeli will do double-duty for the time being, continuing to serve as energy critic while also taking on the finance position.
Former Toronto deputy mayor Doug Holyday, meanwhile, has been appointed to the newly-created role of government accountability critic. He will also serve as the party’s spokesman on Toronto matters, including the ongoing construction of new subway and light rail lines. Mr. Holyday, who entered the legislature in a by-election last month, was previously a top player in Mayor Rob Ford’s administration and steered many of its money-saving policies, including negotiations with city unions. He said he would promote tight spending at the province.
“I went door to door in that by-election and a lot of people told me it’s time for a change, they’re fed up with hearing these stories about how tax dollars are wasted,” he told a Queen’s Park press conference. “People work hard for that money and they don’t want it to be wasted. We can’t live with the deficit and the debt that we have.”
Mr. Hudak turfed Mr. Shurman on Sunday, three days after the Globe and Mail revealed that the Thornhill MPP had received $20,719 last year to pay rent on his apartment in Toronto. The housing allowance was set up to subsidize Toronto homes for out-of-town MPPs. Mr. Shurman was able to dip into the funds because he owns a house in Niagara-on-the-Lake, 150 kilometres from his riding.
Mr. Hudak said he asked Mr. Shurman to repay the money, but Mr. Shurman refused. He did, however, agree to stop claiming the allowance.
As he introduced Mr. Fedeli and Mr. Holyday in their new roles Tuesday, Mr. Hudak sounded ready for an election.
On Monday, Premier Kathleen Wynne threatened to call one unless the opposition parties help her pass legislation to ban the use of tanning beds by people under 18 and the Local Food Act, designed to help farmers and promote Ontario agricultural products. Asked if he would help get these laws through the legislature, Mr. Hudak said there were more important things to worry about.
“Are they going to call an election over tanning beds or a Local Food Act?” he said. “I think we need change in the province of Ontario, and I think nothing is more demonstrated why we need change when after eight months, those are her top two issues. Mine are jobs and making sure that we respect the taxpayer again.”