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Doug Ford consulting Christine Elliott on who should replace her as Ontario’s health minister


Premier Doug Ford is seeking advice from retiring Health Minister Christine Elliott on whom he should appoint as her replacement.

In an impromptu scrum outside his Queen’s Park office Tuesday, Ford told reporters his cabinetmaking has begun in earnest, although he has “not yet” told anyone they have been promoted, demoted or left out.

“We have a lot of work cut out for us, we’re going to be swearing in our cabinet Friday,” Ford said, confirming there would be a summer legislative session in the weeks ahead.

His top cabinet priority is to choose a successor to Elliott, who did not seek re-election on June 2 but remains at the helm of the ministry until the end of this week.

“I consulted with Christine. That’s the most important person, because she held that role for four years,” the premier said in his first meeting with journalists since the morning after the election.

“And I’m taking her advice on that and … we’re going to have a superb health minister,” he said, declining to tip his hand.

The Star has previously reported that Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark are front-runners to fill Elliott’s shoes.

Asked if he planned a radical overhaul for the Ministry of Health, which consumes half of the program spending in the provincial budget and has been stretched to capacity during more than two years of COVID-19, Ford emphasized, “Not right now.”

“We’re just going to stay focused. We’re going to work with all the CEOs of hospitals and doctors and nurses and get their advice, because I am a strong believer of getting the advice off the front-line people that deal with health every single day,” he said.

Ford indicated improving the diversity in cabinet is also top of mind.

“We’re always looking at that,” he said.

“I’m so proud that we have really qualified people from all walks of life and all different backgrounds, and I’m very, very proud that we have three Black MPs,” said Ford, referring to rookies Patrice Barnes (Ajax), David Smith (Scarborough Centre), and Charmaine Williams (Brampton Centre).

In the current 28-member cabinet — 19 men and nine women — there are six visible minority members.

He acknowledged selecting his executive council is a difficult task from an expand caucus of 83 Progressive Conservative MPPs, up from the 76 elected in the 2018 vote.

“It’s the most challenging thing with any premier. You have 83 very, very qualified people and some are going to be in cabinet and some may not. But we have a great team.”

Queried as to whether it will be hard to deliver disappointing news to spurned hopefuls in the next few days, Ford said, “I don’t want to say disappoint, because everyone’s going to have a critical role. Everyone’s going to contribute back to the province and their communities.”

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

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