Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
Sale ends in
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
per week for 24 weeks
save over $140
// //

Liberal Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli takes questions from the media on Monday, April 15, 2013.

Matthew Sherwood/The Canadian Press

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is planning a cabinet shakeup that could see younger ministers and gender parity as she and her inner circle look to emulate the enthusiasm and youthfulness of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet, according to a number of veteran Liberal sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Nearing the mid-point of her four-year mandate, the Liberal insiders say, the Premier believes some ministers are not pulling their weight – leaving her to push their files forward herself – and have failed to properly communicate government policy, reflected in her party's low numbers in public-opinion polls.

Ms. Wynne is also concerned that her cabinet is looking too "old, tired, grey," in the words of one source.

Story continues below advertisement

There have been conversations about a cabinet with an equal number of men and women. There are currently eight women, including Ms. Wynne, and 18 men in her cabinet.

The cabinet shuffle will happen after the legislature rises June 9, giving new ministers the summer to find their feet. It comes as the Liberals struggle in the polls, squeezed between the two opposition parties.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown has made a play for moderate voters by embracing carbon pricing to fight climate change, while NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is seeking to peel away left-leaning Liberals unhappy with Ms. Wynne's privatization of Hydro One. And a series of ethical imbroglios, including revelations by The Globe and Mail of a system of secret cash-for-access fundraisers, have tarnished the Liberal brand.

The Premier spent the first half of her mandate advancing rapidly on a slew of big-ticket policies: money for new transit projects, a cap-and-trade system to battle carbon emissions, the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan to supplement CPP for people without a workplace pension and the Hydro One sell-off. Now she must make sure all of these policies are rolled out smoothly and sold to the electorate in the run-up to the 2018 provincial election.

The Liberals are moving more emphatically into re-election phase. Among other things, Ms. Wynne's pollster and strategic guru, David Herle, has become more involved in preparations, and the party itself is undergoing a restructuring that saw the departure of executive director Earl Provost.

One veteran Liberal said there is a view among the Premier and her advisers that some of the longer-serving members of cabinet are not particularly effective communicators.

"She is blaming her cabinet for … in part, the standing in the polls and the perception of the lack of traction," the Liberal said. Shuffling her cabinet now is an attempt to showcase new ministers to change the "image of the government from a bit tired to fresher."

Story continues below advertisement

One senior government official, who spoke on background, said no decisions have been made and the shuffle simply reflects a mid-mandate shift toward implementation. The scope of the shakeup, the official said, has not been decided; nor does it reflect the Premier's disappointment with the performance of her bench. On the question of diversity in cabinet, the official said the fact the Premier and her deputy are women should be taken into account.

Questions hang over the heads of several top ministers, including Education Minister Liz Sandals, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli and Environment Minister Glen Murray. All three have reputations for knowing their files inside out, but they have also brought repeated communications headaches for the government.

Last fall, Ms. Sandals dismissed the need for accountability from teachers' unions on how they spent millions of taxpayer dollars meant to cover their bargaining costs. "We know what 100 pizzas cost," she said.

Mr. Chiarelli has taken flak for trying to minimize the $1.1-billion cost of cancelling two gas-fired power plants by comparing the monthly charge for ratepayers to a cup of coffee. He was also accused last month of saying Ms. Horwath "pees all over the map" on energy policy (although he maintains he did not say that).

And Mr. Murray caused a firestorm last month for a speech in which he attacked the province's auto industry for not doing enough to fight climate change and mused about shutting down nuclear power plants.

Mr. Chiarelli and Mr. Murray have also been involved in a cabinet table battle over the government's climate plans. While Mr. Chiarelli is seen as lacking enthusiasm for the climate fight, Mr. Murray is viewed as volatile for failing to get his colleagues in government to support some of his more ambitious plans, such as getting some Ontarians to switch from natural gas to electric heat.

Story continues below advertisement

Both will be hard to replace, however. Mr. Chiarelli is widely regarded within the province's energy sector as a competent minister whose technocratic style has led to stability in one of the government's most difficult files. And tossing Mr. Murray out shortly after he reveals his Climate Change Action Plan could be seen as a lack of confidence in a signature piece of government policy.

In the case of other ministers, insiders say, the problem isn't simply communication but a lack of initiative that leaves the Premier's office handling their files for them.

Ms. Wynne "has not been happy with the quality of her cabinet," one veteran Liberal said. "She has felt she has had to carry the load, for the most part, of the cabinet. That shouldn't be taken as an aspersion on everyone in the cabinet. But, for the majority, she is not happy with the quality of the cabinet."

Added another insider: "Tough decisions have to be made, unfortunately."

Some prominent ministers, however, are expected to retain their portfolios. These include Finance Minister Charles Sousa, one of the government's few connections to Bay Street who has managed to keep a lid on spending while still faithfully implementing Ms. Wynne's agenda – without making any serious mistakes.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins, who has carried water for Ms. Wynne in the province's fee standoff with the province's doctors, is also expected to keep his job.

Story continues below advertisement

Meanwhile, several rookie MPPs elected in 2014 are seen as ready for cabinet. These include Eleanor McMahon of Burlington, an experienced political staffer who once worked for former prime minister Jean Chrétien; Indira Naidoo-Harris, who took the battleground riding of Halton away from the Tories in the last election; and Etobicoke Centre MPP Yvan Baker, the telegenic parliamentary assistant to Deputy Premier and Treasury Board President Deb Matthews.

The shuffle could also see the long-awaited elevation of Glenn Thibeault, the former federal NDP MP whose defection to the Liberals last year sparked accusations of bribery.

Two Liberal operatives were accused of offering government jobs to Mr. Thibeault's rival for the Liberal nomination so Mr. Thibeault could take the nomination unopposed. One of the operatives was charged criminally, but the Crown stayed the charges last month. Mr. Thibeault was not accused of any personal wrongdoing.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies