Over this past summer, just a year after winning a majority government, Ontario Premier Doug Ford initiated a major shake-up of his government. Facing sinking public opinion poll numbers, particularly for his personal popularity, Ford took a number of steps—some planned and some in panicked response to unforeseen problems—to reboot his government. First, the Premier triggered a major Cabinet shuffle, prominently featuring a stunning rebuke of both his Finance and Education Ministers. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli and Education Minister Lisa Thompson were both demoted to lesser portfolios. The rationale cited for both demotions was ineffectual communications. There was no acknowledgment that the unpopular initiatives for which these ministers were responsible may simply have been bad public policy to begin with.
Next, Ford faced scathing condemnation of his Chief of Staff, Dean French, after it was revealed that French had arranged high-paying civil service appointments to a number of seemingly unqualified friends and family members. The backlash, not only in the media and from the public, but also from within his own Cabinet and caucus, was so swift and uniformly negative that it threatened to completely derail Ford’s government. French was forced to tender his resignation.
With the ouster of French, Ford has lost his main policy driver and his biggest guard dog in government. While an eerie calm descended on Queen’s Park soon after French’s departure, Ford has also become less prominent in the public eye. Whether or not his diminished public profile is by request of the federal Conservative Party, who are fighting an election, it would appear that Ford is relying on the maxim that less is more. To that end, the fall session of the Ontario Legislature has been delayed by seven weeks, until after the Federal election. Whether the easily-triggered Ford can keep his loquaciousness in check is another matter. The opposition parties are sure to make every effort to goad Ford when the Legislature resumes on Monday, October 28.