Who Will be the Northern Minister(s)? – by Livio Di Matteo (October 16, 2011)

Livio Di Matteo is Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Visit his new Economics Blog “Northern Economist” at http://ldimatte.shawwebspace.ca/

On Thursday October 20th, Premier McGuinty will unveil his new cabinet and until then there will be much speculation as to which of his Northern MPPS will get in.  As we all know, prior to the election, Rick Bartolucci was Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing while Michael Gravelle was Minister of Northern Development and Mines and Forestry. 

Having two cabinet ministers from the North did not do much for Liberal fortunes in the North and their seven seats have shrunk to four.  Of the four current MPPS, who will make it into cabinet?

One possibility is that given the minority government situation and the beating taken from Northern voters, the Premier will take the safe route and opt for the status quo and retain Gravelle and Bartolucci in their current posts.  However, this is a new government and the Premier may opt for fresh faces.

The Premier has a choice of Bill Mauro (Thunder Bay-Atikokan), Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North), Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury) and David Orazietti (Sault Ste. Marie).  Given that the number of Liberal MPPS has shrunk from 71 to 53, there will likely be a smaller cabinet – count on closer to 20-22 cabinet ministers rather than the previous 28.  This will also be a signal of the coming “austerity” due to the deficit and the slowing economy.   This means that there may probably only be one “northern minister” this time and it will most likely be Northern Development Mines and Forestry though there is always the possibility that it could be Natural Resources.

A look through the recent roles of the four Liberal MPPS would suggest that if it comes down to only one choice, David Orazietti is probably best poised to enter cabinet.  He seems to have the biggest recent list of legislative assistantships and chairmanships – comparable to Bartolucci in the late 1990s. He is young and the Premier may be looking for fresh blood after both Gravelle and Bartolucci.  He has served as Parliamentary Assistant to both the Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development and Mines making him familiar with both portfolios.  As well, of the four northern Liberal MPPs, he won by the largest margin – approximately 7,000 votes over the second place finisher – compared to about 2600 for Gravelle, 450 for Mauro and 500 for Bartolucci. Given the relative youth and energy of Orazietti and the slimmer cabinet, the Premier may even decide to be innovative and combine the Northern Development and Natural Resource portfolios into one under Orazietti

Where does this leave the other three MPPs?  Well, they are all “team players” and no doubt will happily abide with whatever decision the premier makes.  How the electorate in Sudbury or Thunder Bay will feel is another matter.  However, given that northern cabinet ministers have recently come from Sudbury or Thunder Bay, rotating the position to someone from Sault Ste. Marie will likely also be seen as “fair” at least by government supporters.  We shall see what Thursday brings.

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