Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says that, after a cabinet shuffle, she now has a team of ministers who will be running in a general election expected in less than five months and ready to serve if the Liberals are re-elected.
Two of Ms. Wynne's most senior lieutenants announced months ago that they will not run in June, prompting the small shuffle on Wednesday. Deputy Premier and Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews and Treasury Board President Liz Sandals left cabinet and were replaced by more junior Liberals who will seek re-election.
"I want to make sure that we have the team that will carry us into the election and beyond," Ms. Wynne said on Wednesday morning while touring a hospital in Barrie, Ont. "There is a new experience and a new perspective that can come to the table."
Mitzie Hunter was moved from education minister to advanced education, replacing Ms. Matthews. The deputy premier position will remain unfilled. Eleanor McMahon was promoted to the treasury board from tourism, culture and sport. Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca became the Economic Development Minister, replacing Brad Duguid, who will not run again.
Status of Women Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris becomes Education Minister, while backbencher Harinder Malhi took over her old post. Nathalie Des Rosiers, the MPP for Ottawa-Vanier, took over as Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. Kathryn McGarry was promoted to transportation.
Ms. Wynne said she is aiming for more diversity and gender parity in her cabinet. "It is important to have a diversity, in gender, regional and background diversity, at the cabinet table, that has been part of the consideration as we go into this cabinet shuffle," she said.
With eight politicians involved in the shuffle, many of the new ministers represent ridings in or around the densely populated Greater Toronto Area. The long-ruling party faces a tough campaign. After trailing in the polls behind Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown for most of the past year, Ms. Wynne's Liberals have seen a jump in support in recent weeks, coinciding with new programs that expanded access to pharmacare for many Ontarians and hiked the hourly minimum wage to $14.
Speaking with The Globe and Mail in December, Ms. Wynne said the new programs were a window into her re-election strategy. "I'm incredibly proud of the work that we've done and the changes that we've seen here and I'm quite prepared to defend those," she said at the time. "I live my political life in the activist centre."
Ms. Wynne last shuffled her cabinet in July to replace Glen Murray at environment. At that time, Chris Ballard became Environment Minister and Peter Milczyn was promoted to take over from Mr. Ballard as Housing Minister.