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Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Looking at the individual appointments to the Ontario cabinet, you can't see the forest for the trees.

It is not until you step back that you can see the entire story.

Not one rookie went into a much smaller cabinet.

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That is smart leadership.

When you are a single seat short of a majority, keeping the team together and harmonious is all that matters.

You need every vote, and all 53 Liberals showing up with a "team first" attitude if the government is going to survive and thrive.

You can't buy love with appointments. For every person you add to cabinet, 25 are furious.

You can buy respect with fairness.

Only by holding the line and saying "no rookies" do you establish a fair parameter for cabinet that is clear to everyone.

McGuinty can't be accused of playing favourites or rewarding apple-polishers or playing regional or identity politics.

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His argument is that in a minority government facing a daunting global economic situation and complex fiscal challenges there isn't time for on-the-job training. He wanted ministers who could hit the ground running and handle their briefs in the House from day one.

McGuinty said in a statement: "It's an experienced cabinet that will guide Ontario through global uncertainty by focusing on building a strong Ontario economy."

The truth is that in a minority government, legislative committees become much more important.

Without a majority of members on the committees, every hearing, every amendment, every moment is a potential disaster. A miscalculation can lead to terrible legislation, bad public policy or a defeat on a key bill.

Ministers don't serve on committees.

Having great backbenchers, the kind who would have normally have gone into cabinet, means the Liberals on the committees are going to be more prepared than normal.

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Finally, there is a real humility to the subtext of the shuffle.

The cabinet was made considerably smaller, dropping from 28 to 22.

Its a reflection of the tight fiscal situation in the province and a focus on key priorities.

In a world where every vote counts, McGuinty is showing real wisdom in his first test as a minority-government premier.

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