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PCs dismiss Ontario’s chief scientist amid broad effort to undo Liberals’ legacy

Newly-elected Progressive-Conservative Premier Doug Ford has begun chipping away at the previous Liberal government’s legacy after only a few days in office, freezing new measures on police oversight, ticket scalping and vaping, as well as firing Ontario’s new chief scientist.

The new Premier has moved quickly to put his stamp on the public service and halt a number of incoming initiatives since he and his cabinet were sworn in on Friday. The Liberals had held office for nearly 15 years before the party suffered a catastrophic election loss in June. Now, the Tories say they want to consult widely on a number of new rules introduced by former premier Kathleen Wynne in her government’s final year in office.

Even before entering the Premier’s office, Mr. Ford moved to shake up Queen’s Park. His incoming administration implemented a hiring stop in the public service, froze salaries for managers and began to dismantle Ontario’s cap-and-trade carbon-emissions system before officially taking power.

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Among the latest moves from Mr. Ford was the firing of Ontario’s chief scientist, Molly Shoichet. An award-winning professor at the University of Toronto, she was appointed as Ontario’s first, and, to this point, only, chief scientist last November in what Ms. Wynne’s Liberals said was an effort to create a voice for science at the top level of government. Ms. Shoichet was told on Tuesday, after the Canada Day long weekend, that she had been let go.

“I was dismissed. I don’t think it was about me or even about the chief scientist position, but rather an out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new, even though, for me, I had just been there for six months,” Ms. Shoichet told The Globe and Mail in an e-mail.

The government will maintain the role and find someone new to fill it, said Simon Jefferies, a spokesman for Mr. Ford. The chief scientist is expected to brief decision-makers, promote Ontario’s scientific research both domestically and internationally and craft a research agenda for the government.

“The chief scientist was removed from her position. We will undergo a process of finding a suitable and qualified replacement,” Mr. Jefferies said.

Mr. Ford also dismissed Ontario’s chief investment officer, Allan O’Dette, and removed former TD Bank chief executive Ed Clark from his role as the premier’s business adviser.

Over the Canada Day long weekend, Mr. Ford’s cabinet halted an overhaul of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit before it came into effect. The unit, which looks into all cases of death, serious injury and sexual assault involving police, was set to get broader powers.

While campaigning, the Tories dismissed a wide-ranging police bill introduced by the Liberals, known as Bill 175, as burdensome and disrespectful of police.

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In a letter delivered to three police organizations only hours after he was sworn in, Mr. Ford promised more changes would be coming to policing legislation. “We believe that the previous government’s Bill 175 hurts policing efforts in the province and undermines confidence in the police. Law-abiding people in this province should never feel unsafe when dealing with the people who protect us,” Mr. Ford wrote.

New ticket-scalping rules that would have capped the price of resales at 50-per-cent above face value, which were introduced as part of an omnibus consumer protection act at the end of last year, have also been put on hold. According to Mr. Jefferies, the Ontario government has no way of enforcing that cap. The government has said it will review the provisions, which were introduced after public anger with a widely scalped Tragically Hip tour following frontman Gord Downie’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.

A set of new rules that would have regulated vaping in the same way as smoking, ending the practice of in-store testing and requiring retailers to keep the product hidden from the public, were also paused. The government has said it wants to re-examine evidence of vaping’s use as a smoking-cessation tool.

The New Democrats, who are now Ontario’s Official Opposition, charged that the moves by Mr. Ford’s cabinet to undo legislation without the legislature were “backroom” deals.

“No one voted for business to be conducted in secret, behind closed doors,” Leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement. “And I’m sure no one voted to have a premier that would listen to influencers and lobbyists while shutting out everyday people affected by the laws.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be meeting with Mr. Ford for the first time on Thursday at the Premier’s Queen’s Park office.

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