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Romano out as minister of colleges, universities after Doug Ford shuffles cabinet

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford shuffled his cabinet on Friday, introducing new members, ousting several others, and bringing back a minister who resigned last year after violating pandemic travel guidelines.
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TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford shuffled his cabinet on Friday, introducing new members, ousting several others, and bringing back a minister who resigned last year after violating pandemic travel guidelines.

Ford said the changes – which come less than a year before the next provincial election – were made as his Progressive Conservative government focuses on the province's recovery from COVID-19.

"Our renewed team is well positioned to deliver on the priorities that matter to Ontarians, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, supporting businesses and job creators and building transit infrastructure," he said in a statement.

Rod Phillips, who left his role as finance minister after travelling to St. Barts in December contrary to public health rules, is notably back in cabinet as the new minister of long-term care.

His vacation when the government advised against all non-essential travel generated a political storm that saw Ford criticized for not taking action when he first learned of the trip. Phillips called his excursion a "significant error in judgement."

He now replaces Merrillee Fullerton, who becomes minister of children, community and social services.

Fullerton has been heavily criticized for the havoc COVID-19 wrought on long-term care -- 3,794 nursing home residents died from the virus and thousands more were infected. A scathing report published this spring found the neglected sector was unprepared for a pandemic.

Friday's shuffle also saw five ministers moved out of cabinet, including former environment minister Jeff Yurek, and former infrastructure minister Laurie Scott.

Several younger caucus members, meanwhile, were promoted to more prominent portfolios.

David Piccini becomes minister of environment and Kinga Surma takes on the infrastructure file.

Parm Gill takes on the new portfolio of citizenship and multiculturalism, the first minister to head up the role.

Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria is the new president of the treasury board, which has been split from the finance file, while Lisa Thompson replaces Ernie Hardeman in agriculture, food and rural affairs.

Health Minister Christine Elliott, Education Minister Steven Lecce, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, Attorney General Doug Downey and Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy remain in their prominent positions.

Bethlenfalvy is also taking over the province's digital government strategy.

Meanwhile, John Yakabuski is out as minister of natural resources, as that file goes to Greg Rickford, who is taking on a merged file as minister of northern development, mining, natural resources and forestry, as well as Indigenous affairs, Rickford's new ministry aims to enhance development potential and sustainability in the North

Todd Smith becomes minister of energy, which has split from Rickford's former portfolio.

Jill Dunlop, a former associate minister, becomes minister of colleges and universities, as Ross Romano moves to government and consumer services.

Several newcomers are also taking on associate minister files, with Stan Cho in transportation and Jane McKenna in children and women's issues.

Nina Tangri becomes associate minister of small business and red tape, while Kaleed Rasheed becomes associate minister of digital government.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2021.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press