TORONTO—Doug Ford declared a new era officially underway in Ontario on Friday as he assumed the reins of the province and unveiled the leaner cabinet tasked with executing his widely touted agenda of fiscal responsibility.
Ford, who cruised to victory earlier this month in an election that reduced the governing Liberals to a party without official status, made good on a promise to reduce the size of the provincial cabinet.
Ford has named 20 ministers to cabinet posts, reserving some plum positions for the two women who challenged him for leadership of the party earlier this year. Under former premier Kathleen Wynne, cabinet had as many as 30 members.
At an outdoor ceremony before cheering supporters, Ford outlined a litany of global challenges and perceived past political wrongs before promising change had arrived.
“Together we will blaze a new trail,” he said. “Together we will be the envy of the world because as a people, as a province, our potential is limitless.”
Ford, long criticized for divisive partisan rhetoric, pledged to govern for all Ontario residents and to work with members of the other three parties in the legislature.
The crowd, gathered in scorching conditions to witness Ford’s speech, greeted him enthusiastically as he proclaimed himself a premier for the people.
Cindy Nepo, a supporter from Brampton, Ont., felt his claim rang true.
“I support him because I feel in my heart he’s sincere,” she said. “All the promises or goals he had set for Ontario. He is for the people.”
An hour earlier, Ford revealed a cabinet containing seven women and 14 men—one of them a member of a visible minority.
Christine Elliott, a veteran provincial legislator who returned to politics this year to contend for the party leadership, had been widely expected to play a prominent role in the Tory cabinet. Ford delivered on those expectations by naming Elliott, the province’s former patient ombudsman, as minister of health and long-term care.
Toronto lawyer Caroline Mulroney, who came third in the leadership contest triggered by the abrupt resignation of Patrick Brown, has been tapped as Ontario’s new attorney general.
Another prominent post went to Vic Fedeli, who stepped in as interim leader after Brown resigned and pledged to root out the rot from the party ranks. The longtime finance critic will now lead the charge on the file by becoming finance minister.
Former Postmedia executive Rod Phillips, hailed as a star candidate throughout the election campaign, was named environment minister. Veteran provincial legislators rewarded with cabinet posts included newly minted Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod, Transportation Minister John Yakabuski, and Education Minister Lisa Thompson.
Former federal cabinet minister Greg Rickford now takes charge of Ontario’s energy portfolio, a lightning-rod topic in the province due to years of rising hydro rates. And Raymond Cho, who once sat with Ford on Toronto City Council, assumes responsibility for seniors and accessibility.
Ford, who will take on responsibility for inter-governmental affairs as well as his duties as Premier, was officially sworn in early Friday afternoon. He will then hold a second, public ceremony on the steps of the legislature, during which he is expected to reaffirm his oath of office and give a speech.
The Tories won a majority in this month’s election, which also saw the outgoing Liberals reduced to seven seats and the NDP propelled to official Opposition status.
Ford took the reins of the party in March after a tumultuous leadership contest, campaigned largely on a promise of fiscal responsibility, though he did not present a fully costed platform.
He has not yet said when he will recall the legislature but maintains he wants to start working on his plan for the province quickly and has already set the wheels in motion on several of his proposals.
He has vowed that his first move once the legislature resumes will be to scrap the cap-and-trade system—an announcement that led to the cancellation of several green energy initiatives funded through the program.
Ford has also placed the public service under a hiring freeze, with the exception of essential frontline staff, and ordered that all discretionary spending such as meals for staff meetings be put on hold.
The Tories have also reached out to the group representing Ontario doctors to reopen contract negotiations rather than proceed to scheduled arbitration, saying they want to repair a relationship that soured under the previous regime.
During the election campaign, Ford promised to launch a line-by-line audit of government spending in order to eliminate waste, and said he will find billions in efficiencies each year without cutting jobs.