Doug Ford dumps five ministers in major cabinet shuffle

Premier Doug Ford has dumped five ministers, moved eight others, and promoted seven backbenchers in a major cabinet shuffle with less than year to go before the next election.Ford said Friday that his Progressive Conservative government needed an overhaul as Ontario emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, so he is returning former finance minister Rod Phillips to cabinet in the key role of minister of long-term care.“Our renewed team is well-positioned to deliver on the priorities that matter to Ontarians, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, supporting businesses and job creators, and building transit infrastructure,” the premier said in a statement after the first virtual cabinet shuffle in Ontario history.Phillips, who resigned as finance minister on Dec. 31 after a pandemic vacation to the Caribbean island of St. Barts, replaces Merrilee Fullerton, who becomes children, community and social services minister. Fullerton had struggled to explain the problems in nursing homes that led to the deaths of about 4,000 elderly residents earlier in the pandemic. Phillips is seen as a stronger communicator and manager who had performed well in environment and finance before his ill-advised Christmas holiday.Fullerton succeeds Todd Smith, who is the new minister of energy, replacing Greg Rickford, now minister of a merged department of northern development, mining, and natural resources and forestry.Rickford will remain as Indigenous affairs minister atop his other duties.As first reported by the Star on May 31, Ford signalled his displeasure with ministers from rural ridings who dared to question his pandemic lockdowns by demoting them.Gone from the executive council are former natural resources minister John Yakabuski, former environment minister Jeff Yurek, former infrastructure minister Laurie Scott, and former associate energy minister Bill Walker.Only Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, who has privately dissented on the pandemic strategy, survived the purge.All had expressed concerns at the cabinet table about the economic and mental health impacts of Ford’s response to COVID-19.Also demoted was veteran agriculture minister Ernie Hardeman, who will be replaced by Lisa Thompson, a farmer. The five ministers dropped from cabinet are all from what are considered safe Tory ridings the party held in opposition.Thompson, an ex-education minister who was government and consumer services minister, is succeeded by Ross Romano, who was colleges and universities minister.Jill Dunlop, an associate minister, has been promoted to the post-secondary education ministry.Also elevated were associate ministers Kinga Surma, who will be infrastructure minister, and Prabmeet Sarkaria, the new president of the Treasury Board.Other promotions went to: Parm Gill, now minister of citizenship and multiculturalism; Dave Piccini, now environment minister; and associate ministers Stan Cho, Nina Tangri, Kaleed Rasheed, and Jane McKenna.The Star reported last month that top Progressive Conservative officials felt the cabinet was “too white and too male.”There are now 18 men and 10 women in the 28-member executive council, including Ford, with six BIPOC members.As well, there is a more urban focus, with the new blood mostly coming from the Greater Toronto Area, which is home to more than one third of the seats in the Ontario legislature and crucial to Ford’s re-election hopes.Six of the seven MPPs promoted represent GTA ridings.The premier said he felt emboldened to move because “with 21 per cent of residents now fully vaccinated ... we can be confident that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.”His changes come almost two years after his last shuffle and just 50 weeks before the June 2, 2022 election.Among those major players staying put are Health Minister Christine Elliott, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy (who lost his Treasury Board responsibilities to Sarkaria), Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Labour Minister Monte McNaughton.“By leaving Christine Elliott and Stephen Lecce in place, Ford is rewarding the two people that share responsibility with him for one of the most incompetent responses to COVID-19 in the Western world,” charged Liberal MPP Stephen Blais (Orléans).NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said the shuffle is an admission of failure on long-term care.“They can replace the players all they like,” Singh said, “but if the priorities are going to stay the same, we’re going to continue to get more bad choices.”The president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, which says the Ford government’s programs for children are inadequate, told the Star her group will reach out to Fullerton, a former family doctor. “The difficult thing is her track record,” said Angela Brandt. “This is an opportunity for her to redeem herself.”Green Leader Mike Schreiner said the cabinet shuffle is “musical chairs” and “proves that Doug Ford would rather focus on re-election

Doug Ford dumps five ministers in major cabinet shuffle

Premier Doug Ford has dumped five ministers, moved eight others, and promoted seven backbenchers in a major cabinet shuffle with less than year to go before the next election.

Ford said Friday that his Progressive Conservative government needed an overhaul as Ontario emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, so he is returning former finance minister Rod Phillips to cabinet in the key role of minister of long-term care.

“Our renewed team is well-positioned to deliver on the priorities that matter to Ontarians, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, supporting businesses and job creators, and building transit infrastructure,” the premier said in a statement after the first virtual cabinet shuffle in Ontario history.

Phillips, who resigned as finance minister on Dec. 31 after a pandemic vacation to the Caribbean island of St. Barts, replaces Merrilee Fullerton, who becomes children, community and social services minister.

Fullerton had struggled to explain the problems in nursing homes that led to the deaths of about 4,000 elderly residents earlier in the pandemic.

Phillips is seen as a stronger communicator and manager who had performed well in environment and finance before his ill-advised Christmas holiday.

Fullerton succeeds Todd Smith, who is the new minister of energy, replacing Greg Rickford, now minister of a merged department of northern development, mining, and natural resources and forestry.

Rickford will remain as Indigenous affairs minister atop his other duties.

As first reported by the Star on May 31, Ford signalled his displeasure with ministers from rural ridings who dared to question his pandemic lockdowns by demoting them.

Gone from the executive council are former natural resources minister John Yakabuski, former environment minister Jeff Yurek, former infrastructure minister Laurie Scott, and former associate energy minister Bill Walker.

Only Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, who has privately dissented on the pandemic strategy, survived the purge.

All had expressed concerns at the cabinet table about the economic and mental health impacts of Ford’s response to COVID-19.

Also demoted was veteran agriculture minister Ernie Hardeman, who will be replaced by Lisa Thompson, a farmer. The five ministers dropped from cabinet are all from what are considered safe Tory ridings the party held in opposition.

Thompson, an ex-education minister who was government and consumer services minister, is succeeded by Ross Romano, who was colleges and universities minister.

Jill Dunlop, an associate minister, has been promoted to the post-secondary education ministry.

Also elevated were associate ministers Kinga Surma, who will be infrastructure minister, and Prabmeet Sarkaria, the new president of the Treasury Board.

Other promotions went to: Parm Gill, now minister of citizenship and multiculturalism; Dave Piccini, now environment minister; and associate ministers Stan Cho, Nina Tangri, Kaleed Rasheed, and Jane McKenna.

The Star reported last month that top Progressive Conservative officials felt the cabinet was “too white and too male.”

There are now 18 men and 10 women in the 28-member executive council, including Ford, with six BIPOC members.

As well, there is a more urban focus, with the new blood mostly coming from the Greater Toronto Area, which is home to more than one third of the seats in the Ontario legislature and crucial to Ford’s re-election hopes.

Six of the seven MPPs promoted represent GTA ridings.

The premier said he felt emboldened to move because “with 21 per cent of residents now fully vaccinated ... we can be confident that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.”

His changes come almost two years after his last shuffle and just 50 weeks before the June 2, 2022 election.

Among those major players staying put are Health Minister Christine Elliott, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy (who lost his Treasury Board responsibilities to Sarkaria), Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Labour Minister Monte McNaughton.

“By leaving Christine Elliott and Stephen Lecce in place, Ford is rewarding the two people that share responsibility with him for one of the most incompetent responses to COVID-19 in the Western world,” charged Liberal MPP Stephen Blais (Orléans).

NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said the shuffle is an admission of failure on long-term care.

“They can replace the players all they like,” Singh said, “but if the priorities are going to stay the same, we’re going to continue to get more bad choices.”

The president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, which says the Ford government’s programs for children are inadequate, told the Star her group will reach out to Fullerton, a former family doctor. “The difficult thing is her track record,” said Angela Brandt. “This is an opportunity for her to redeem herself.”

Green Leader Mike Schreiner said the cabinet shuffle is “musical chairs” and “proves that Doug Ford would rather focus on re-election than helping Ontarians recover from this pandemic.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Waterloo Region’s Delta-fuelled COVID-19 surge is having the greatest impact on the homeless population

Waterloo Region is grappling with a continued surge of COVID-19 infections bolstered by the highly infectious Delta variant — and the homeless population has experienced the brunt of the outbreak. While Waterloo has not specified which congregate settings have had an outbreak, it’s listed them as the source of 94 cases, by far the largest source of infections in the region. The region told the Star about a dozen congregate sites make up the outbreak, and it’s not considered over.But to get infections under control, Waterloo Region needs to ramp up its strategy with those who use the shelter system and provide further resources to shelters, as more vaccines coming in won’t be enough without a targeted approach that convinces the population to take it, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.The region’s medical officer of health said the shelter population has been prioritized from the start of the vaccine rollout. But the homeless are vulnerable and will need extra supports to ensure the two-dose vaccine regimen is followed through, health experts and shelter workers said.“If it’s not being dealt with aggressively, it’s going to get out of control faster than the vaccines can put it back into control,” said Chagla. On Thursday the province announced it will provide mobile teams to run pop-up clinics in hot spot neighbourhoods, and two teams with trailers and tents will arrive in the region next week and remain for two weeks. The purpose of the mobile teams is to send extra help to where the Delta variant is taking hold.In recent weeks there have been a number of social gatherings that weren’t recommended, and that combined with the Delta variant has caused the cases to spike and hit vulnerable populations, said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the medical officer of health.“The Delta variant is broadly circulating in Waterloo region and has been for a few weeks,” she said. Waterloo prioritized the homeless early on in the vaccine rollout and worked with community partners, but it can be difficult to convince people to receive a shot, said Wang. She said that 83 per cent of the region’s cases are unimmunized people and 14 per cent are partially vaccinated. “We did everything that was needed to be done in trying to make sure they had isolation spaces, medical care and mobile teams were out for vaccination and testing,” she said. “And there’s been a bit more acceptance of the vaccine among this group, but we’re still working to get that acceptance.”Ontario reported Friday that the region had 85 new COVID cases, the second time this week it had the highest case counts in the province. The province reported 345 new cases, so nearly a quarter of the infections were from Waterloo Region.Cases in the region have been rising since June 3 and continue to spike as the provincial average has sharply declined amid widespread vaccine coverage. As of Friday, Waterloo had a seven-day moving average of 10.9 cases per 100,000 — about four times the province’s average of 2.7 cases.Ontario sped up second doses as of Wednesday in the region as well as Halton, Durham, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and Porcupine, and it added Hamilton, Durham and Simcoe Muskoka on Thursday. Toronto and Peel have already been prioritized. In those regions, those vaccinated May 30 or earlier with a first dose can now receive a second dose.Elizabeth Clarke, the CEO of the YW Kitchener-Waterloo, which provides community services including shelters for women and their children, said COVID hadn’t hit the shelter system in the region to this degree before.“It’s just raced through the population,” she said. In their shelter they’ve had 18 positive client cases and two positive staff cases, she said, but no new cases in the last week.Waterloo received vaccinations later than other regions because it wasn’t dealing with the brunt of COVID in the province, so there’s some catching up to do in vaccinating the population including those who are homeless, said Clarke. Things should improve now that the focus is on the shelter system, she said. Only recently has there been such a focused effort to vaccinate the homeless, she said. “Now we’re having clinics come right into the shelters.” To better target the homeless population, Stacey Bricknell, the primary nurse practitioner at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, and her team are going to where people are living and eating to offer vaccination outside of the shelter system. Lately it’s been challenging to find people who are not already unwell, she said.“We really have to use the relationships we have with this population to try to educate and encourage people to have immunization, and recognize it will take more than one conversation,” she said.In March, those in emergency shelters were offered first doses and they had a decent supply, but the homeless population is vulnerable and requires further connections from community organizations to be convinced, she said.Br

Waterloo Region’s Delta-fuelled COVID-19 surge is having the greatest impact on the homeless population

Waterloo Region is grappling with a continued surge of COVID-19 infections bolstered by the highly infectious Delta variant — and the homeless population has experienced the brunt of the outbreak.

While Waterloo has not specified which congregate settings have had an outbreak, it’s listed them as the source of 94 cases, by far the largest source of infections in the region. The region told the Star about a dozen congregate sites make up the outbreak, and it’s not considered over.

But to get infections under control, Waterloo Region needs to ramp up its strategy with those who use the shelter system and provide further resources to shelters, as more vaccines coming in won’t be enough without a targeted approach that convinces the population to take it, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.

The region’s medical officer of health said the shelter population has been prioritized from the start of the vaccine rollout. But the homeless are vulnerable and will need extra supports to ensure the two-dose vaccine regimen is followed through, health experts and shelter workers said.

“If it’s not being dealt with aggressively, it’s going to get out of control faster than the vaccines can put it back into control,” said Chagla.

On Thursday the province announced it will provide mobile teams to run pop-up clinics in hot spot neighbourhoods, and two teams with trailers and tents will arrive in the region next week and remain for two weeks. The purpose of the mobile teams is to send extra help to where the Delta variant is taking hold.

In recent weeks there have been a number of social gatherings that weren’t recommended, and that combined with the Delta variant has caused the cases to spike and hit vulnerable populations, said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the medical officer of health.

“The Delta variant is broadly circulating in Waterloo region and has been for a few weeks,” she said.

Waterloo prioritized the homeless early on in the vaccine rollout and worked with community partners, but it can be difficult to convince people to receive a shot, said Wang. She said that 83 per cent of the region’s cases are unimmunized people and 14 per cent are partially vaccinated.

“We did everything that was needed to be done in trying to make sure they had isolation spaces, medical care and mobile teams were out for vaccination and testing,” she said. “And there’s been a bit more acceptance of the vaccine among this group, but we’re still working to get that acceptance.”

Ontario reported Friday that the region had 85 new COVID cases, the second time this week it had the highest case counts in the province. The province reported 345 new cases, so nearly a quarter of the infections were from Waterloo Region.

Cases in the region have been rising since June 3 and continue to spike as the provincial average has sharply declined amid widespread vaccine coverage. As of Friday, Waterloo had a seven-day moving average of 10.9 cases per 100,000 — about four times the province’s average of 2.7 cases.

Ontario sped up second doses as of Wednesday in the region as well as Halton, Durham, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and Porcupine, and it added Hamilton, Durham and Simcoe Muskoka on Thursday. Toronto and Peel have already been prioritized. In those regions, those vaccinated May 30 or earlier with a first dose can now receive a second dose.

Elizabeth Clarke, the CEO of the YW Kitchener-Waterloo, which provides community services including shelters for women and their children, said COVID hadn’t hit the shelter system in the region to this degree before.

“It’s just raced through the population,” she said. In their shelter they’ve had 18 positive client cases and two positive staff cases, she said, but no new cases in the last week.

Waterloo received vaccinations later than other regions because it wasn’t dealing with the brunt of COVID in the province, so there’s some catching up to do in vaccinating the population including those who are homeless, said Clarke.

Things should improve now that the focus is on the shelter system, she said. Only recently has there been such a focused effort to vaccinate the homeless, she said. “Now we’re having clinics come right into the shelters.”

To better target the homeless population, Stacey Bricknell, the primary nurse practitioner at the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, and her team are going to where people are living and eating to offer vaccination outside of the shelter system. Lately it’s been challenging to find people who are not already unwell, she said.

“We really have to use the relationships we have with this population to try to educate and encourage people to have immunization, and recognize it will take more than one conversation,” she said.

In March, those in emergency shelters were offered first doses and they had a decent supply, but the homeless population is vulnerable and requires further connections from community organizations to be convinced, she said.

Bricknell is reminding the homeless population that the shot could help ease the restrictions they have faced.

“This has had a significant impact on the homeless population in terms of the spaces where they congregate, a lot of them have been closed,” she said. “A lot of folks would like to see a return to normal life.”

Olivia Bowden is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: obowden@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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