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Merrilee Fullerton is stepping down as the provincial representative for Kanata-Carleton immediately. A source cites the reason for the resignation as personal.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, has resigned her cabinet post and quit as the MPP for her Ottawa riding, a day after the Progressive Conservatives unveiled their latest budget.

A senior PC Party source said the resignation was for personal reasons. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source as they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Ms. Fullerton spent nearly two years in a cabinet portfolio that includes the government’s contentious attempts to reform its program for treating children with autism. And until a cabinet shuffle in June, 2021, she was the province’s long-term care minister as COVID-19 ripped through nursing homes, killing thousands.

The sudden resignation forced Premier Doug Ford to shuffle his cabinet late Friday, replacing Ms. Fullerton with Michael Parsa, MPP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill. Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Nina Tangri will step into Mr. Parsa’s previous post as associate minister for housing.

In a letter to Mr. Ford that Ms. Fullerton posted on Twitter, she says her resignations from cabinet and her seat as MPP for Kanata–Carleton are effective immediately. She thanks the Premier, her colleagues and her constituents, but does not provide a clear reason for her departure.

“During the pandemic, our government and the people of Ontario faced some of the most challenging times in this province’s history,” her letter, dated Friday and labelled “delivered by hand,” reads.

Her most recent cabinet post saw her clash with the parents of autistic children, who say her government has failed to make good on its promises to clear waiting lists of those who need treatment. The PC government doubled the program’s budget, to $600-million a year, before she took on the post. The issue has seen this and previous governments repeatedly pitted against vocal parents groups.

Before that, while she was Mr. Ford’s minister of long-term care during the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, 4,000 people died in the province’s nursing homes. The army was called into some of the worst facilities, where its personnel documented unsanitary conditions and neglect and said some residents in short-staffed, chaotic homes died of dehydration.

The government took direct control of some hard-hit homes, handing their oversight to hospitals. But Ontario has faced widespread criticism that it had dialled back inspections and failed to regulate the sector properly.

In November of 2020, Ms. Fullerton, the Premier and then-finance minister Rod Phillips committed to eventually guaranteeing an average of four hours of daily care per resident in the province’s long-term care homes, a goal the government expects to achieve in 2025.

A medical doctor, Ms. Fullerton graduated from University of Ottawa’s medical school and was a family physician at a clinic in Kanata before running for public office. Her departure means Mr. Ford will have to call a byelection in her riding.

Ms. Fullerton was first elected in 2018, when Mr. Ford swept to power.

During that campaign, the Liberals pointed to posts on Twitter she had made in years past about the niqab and appearing to criticize public health care. She denied the allegations that she was Islamophobic or in favour of privatized health care.

After her 2018 win, she was first appointed to cabinet as minister for training, colleges and universities, where she faced criticism for spending cuts.

In a statement Friday, Mr. Ford praised his departing minister.

“Merrilee has been a key member of our team since day one, advancing our government’s agenda to build Ontario and helping to lead our response to the COVID-19 pandemic by serving in important roles in cabinet,” his statement reads. “I wish my friend the very best as she retires from the world of politics.”

With a report from Laura Stone