Speculation has been growing for months that Doug Ford was set to do a reset on his cabinet after a year in government and to try to put a new face on his administration heading into the fall session.
Now the Toronto Sun can reveal that it is more than a reset and more like a complete restart for the Ford government.
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, long thought of as the second-most-powerful man in cabinet, will lose his finance portfolio.
While there has been much speculation that Fedeli will simply switch roles with Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy, those close to the government say that will not happen.
Who will fill Fedeli’s role remains a mystery.
What isn’t a mystery any longer is why Fedeli is being shuffled out. According to sources, the soon-to-be former finance minister lost favour with the premier not only over the rollout of his budget, as has been widely speculated, but specifically over his cuts to municipalities, which came more than a third of the way through their fiscal year.
The premier is said to be particularly upset over how that file was handled.
Fedeli’s move could have repercussions within the PC caucus. When Patrick Brown was forced to step down as PC leader, Fedeli stepped up as interim leader and had more support than Ford did heading into the PC leadership race in 2018.
Also, removing the finance minister after his first budget could be seen as an admission of defeat by the Ford government.
That said, Fedeli was seen by those close to the premier as absent in selling the budget to the actual Ontario voters that matter most, while spending the last few days at the Paris Air Show in France where those that voted for the Ford government are thought to be in short supply.
Among others expected to be in play are those described as the two Lisas. That would be Lisa Thompson, currently education minister, and Lisa MacLeod, the minister of children, community and social services.
Speaking on background, a PC source said that merit will determine these and other cabinet positions.
There has been speculation that MacLeod, who has dealt with the difficult autism file, including death threats to her and her family, could be moved or see her portfolio split up among several ministers.
Now those close to the premier say that it is unlikely that she will keep any of her current portfolio.
Thompson will likely be shuffled out of education.
One of the wild cards in the current cabinet shuffle speculation is Environment Minister Rod Phillips.
Phillips is seen to be a rock star within the Ford government, having handled a difficult file with few problems.
There has been speculation that he will land at education to replace Thompson, at energy if the file currently held by Greg Rickford is split, and even at health if Christine Elliott chooses to leave government.
Elliott, currently the health minister, has dealt with a number of concussions. Her fall while shopping earlier this year was apparently worse than reported to both the media and the premier’s office.
That said, sources close to the premier say that if Elliott leaves cabinet, it will be of her own accord.
Others expected to be in play when the shuffle happens include Todd Smith, Monte McNaughton, Jeff Yurek and perhaps the additions of Stephen Lecce, Stan Cho, Doug Downey and more.
One thing we should count on is a bigger, rather than smaller, government.
The premier is expected to formalize his cabinet shuffle at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.