Lawyers in the Legislature: Ontario's 2016 Cabinet Shuffle

  • 21 juin 2016

On June 13, 2016, after almost two years since the Liberal party’s election, Premier Wynne announced significant changes to her cabinet.  The overall size of cabinet was increased from 27 to 30, with ten ministers taking on new roles, and seven new members, including five women, bringing the total to 12 women in cabinet, making up 40% of the total members. 

Of the 107-member Ontario legislature, only eight are lawyers, six of whom are in the Liberal caucus; altogether there are four lawyers in the newly appointed cabinet – Yasir Naqvi, Bob Chiarelli, David Zimmer, and Steven Del Duca. 

Yasir Naqvi, formerly the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, now sits as the Attorney General, taking over from Madeleine Meilleur, who earlier this month announced her resignation from politics.  Naqvi has also held positions as the Minister of Labour and as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance.  Prior to entering politics in 2007, Naqvi’s legal practice focused on international trade law with Lang Michener LLP and Flavell Kubrick LLP.  He also worked as the Associate Director and International Trade Counsel at the Centre for Trade Policy and Law.  As a lawyer, Naqvi was an active member of the Ontario Bar Association, serving for many years on the executive of the Young Lawyers’ Division (East), including holding the positions of Chair and Vice-Chair of that section.  In his role at Queen’s Park, Mr. Naqvi has maintained ties with the OBA, including appearing as a guest of honour at mentorship programs and section events.

Meilleur’s departure marks the end of a 25-year career in politics, which included several cabinet positions, and ten years working in Ottawa municipal politics.  She was a strong voice for Franco-Ontarians, and only the second woman to hold the position of Attorney General.  Initiatives that will carry over to Naqvi’s leadership, as reported by the Attorney General’s January 2016 Mandate Letter to the Premier, include the ongoing work of the Attorney General’s Justice Roundtable, continuing to modernize and streamline court services, working with justice system partners on family law reform, working with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (now split into two ministries) on the 2016 review of the Ontario Municipal Board, and the release of the highly anticipated expert review of Ontario’s Construction Lien Act.

Bob Chiarelli moves from the Ministry of Energy into the newly created Ministry of Infrastructure, which will be responsible for the implementation of the province’s announced investments in courthouses, roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.  Staying in the same ministries are David Zimmer in the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (re-named from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs), and Steven Del Duca in the Ministry of Transportation.  Bob Chiarelli moves from the Ministry of Energy into the newly created Ministry of Infrastructure, which will be responsible for the implementation of the province’s announced investments in roads, bridges, school and hospitals.  This portfolio isn’t new to Chiarelli, who worked on this file from 2010 to 2013 as Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation.

Other notable non-lawyer shuffles and new appointments include Glenn Thibeault (a former federal NDP MP), who will take over for Chiarelli as the Minister of Energy, and Bill Mauro moving from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry into the new stand-alone Ministry of Municipal Affairs, which lost Ted McMeekin when he announced his decision to step down from Cabinet.  Mauro is not new to this role, having served as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing for three months, just before the 2014 provincial elections. 

With the appointment of Yasir Naqvi as Attorney General, David Orazietti was moved from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services into Community Safety and Correctional Services.  One of the seven new members of Cabinet, Marie-France Lalonde will take over for Orazietti, and also assumes the role of Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs. 

There is a new stand-along Ministry of International Trade, led by Michael Chan, who moves from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.  That Ministry is now led by Laura Albanese, another new appointee to Cabinet, who was first elected in 2007, and previously served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance and Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Kevin Flynn remains Minister of Labour, Eric Hoskins is still in Health, and Glen Murray will continue his work to execute the newly released Climate Change Action Plan and implement new climate change legislation as the Minister of Environment.  

Charles Sousa remains Minister of Finance, though Indira Naidoo-Harris is one of seven new members to cabinet, serving as Associate Minister of Finance (Ontario Retirement Pension Plan), responsible for executing the government’s plan to expand pension coverage through the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan Act (Strengthening Retirement Security for Ontarians), 2016 or in the alternative, working towards an expansion of the Canada Pension Plan. 

With the Ontario Legislature now adjourned until September 12, 2016, new Ministers and Ministers with new portfolios will be spending the summer months getting up to speed on their respective portfolios, and then reaching out to stakeholders and constituents.  The OBA looks forward to meeting new faces in Cabinet and continuing its work with returning Ministers.