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Reading the Tea Leaves in Ontario's Cabinet Shuffle

Reading the Tea Leaves in Ontario's Cabinet Shuffle

reminiscent of Big Leo Bernier?

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~~  June 21, 2021  (LSN)  Premier Ford has shuffled his cabinet and put in place the team for the last year of his mandate with an eye to next spring’s election.  It has been a tumultuous year for the Premier to say the least given the pandemic but with the end of the pandemic seemingly in sight, Ontario’s government now has to plan for dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic as well as the future.  Key portfolios remain in the same hands, but there are some notable changes.

Health and long-term care will continue to be important portfolios and here there is both continuity and change.  Christine Elliott remains Minister of Health and is Deputy Premier an indication of both her importance as well as the centrality of health.  As for long-term care, Merrilee Fullerton has been replaced by Rod Phillips.  This change has received a lot of media attention mainly because Fullerton’s departure is seen as a demotion and the resurrection of Phillips comes after last winter’s travel escapade to St. Barts and the theatrical staging to mask his absence.   However, going to Children, Community and Social Services is not necessarily a demotion given the size of the ministry in terms of its budget share.  And as for Mr. Phillips, well he has atoned for his sins and not allowing an otherwise competent person back into cabinet does not seem particularly productive.

The more interesting analysis and discussion with respect to health and long-term care is what the challenges are and how Elliott and Phillips will deal with them.  In the case of health, the pandemic has disrupted the system and along with everything else the FAO now predicts that it will take years to address the backlog of surgeries in Ontario that were delayed by the pandemic.  Indeed, the elective surgery backlog will reach 419,200 procedures and the diagnostic backlog will reach nearly 2.5 million procedures by the end of September 2021.  This is on top of dealing with COVID and its after-effects, the risk of another wave in the fall should the variants outstrip vaccination efforts and the human resources issues of a stressed health care sector.  This will all cost a lot of money.

As for long-term care, the long and short of the matter is that bed numbers from the early 2000s to the election of the Ford government stayed flat at just under 80,000.  The pandemic and its toll on long-term care homes resulted in thousands of beds being removed from service because they were 3-4 resident bedrooms more conducive to infection spread thereby reducing capacity even further.  On top of this the government has promised raising daily hours of care per resident from 2.75 to 4 hours, hiring 9,000 more PSWs and adding another 30,000 beds to this system.  This will all cost a lot of money,

As for money, the spring 2021 Ontario budget provided some interesting projections of spending by general category up to 2029-30.  Between 2020-21 to 2029-30, health spending is projected to rise from $66.7 to $82.0 billion.   This may seem like a lot but if you take the medium-term population projection scenario from the Ministry of Finance, assume inflation of about 2 percent and convert to inflation adjusted dollars, once the COVID-19 spending spike dissipates real per capita health spending can actually be expected to decline by about 11 percent from 2022 to 2029.  In moving forward their priorities, one hopes that both Elliot and Phillips are really good friends with Peter Bethlenfalvy who remains Minister of Finance though his Treasury Board responsibilities now go to Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria.

In other news of note, Ross Romano is no longer Minister of Colleges and Universities and has been moved to Government and Consumer Services.  One suspects there has been some displeasure with the handling of that portfolio by Minister Romano given that Ontario is the first province in Canada to see a university declare insolvency and seek creditor protection under the CCCA while simultaneously creating two new universities – Hearst and NOSM.  Such a feat of creative destruction has not gone unnoticed and the move to Government and Consumer Services is hopefully not a strategy to put Minister Romano in charge of a process to have the entire province of Ontario's operations seek CCCA protection given the ballooning size of the provincial debt and deficit.

The new incoming minister for Colleges and Universities by the way is Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop who moves there from being Associate Minister for Children and Women’s Issues so this is definitely a promotion.  Given that Minister Romano was from the north and thoroughly disrupted a northern university, one is a bit concerned that there may be a curse attached to this portfolio and Minister Dunlop may be fated to disrupt post-secondary education in Simcoe County.  That is of course the home of Lakehead’s Orillia Campus and one wonders if we are in store for the freeing of yet another institution from its administrative shackles by creating another stand-alone university?  Residents of Simcoe County who are planning to create an Orillia University Liberation Army may want to take notes from the Dean of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.  In a recent virtual town hall, the Dean apparently referred to creation of a new medical university separate from Lakehead and Laurentian as “Emancipation.” I suspect that no one ever truly realized that the poor medical students in northern Ontario had actually been enslaved for the last fifteen years.  

On a final note, Greg Rickford is truly now King of the North.  The MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, assumes a merged role as Minister of Northern Development, Mining, Natural Resources and Forestry, as well as Indigenous Affairs.  Mr. Rickford has gained a reputation as being quite competent and unlike some ministers, he never makes the boss look bad.  He follows the last true King of the North who was Leo Bernier, a minister in the Davis government of the 1970s.  And another of my favorite northerners and the only current cabinet minister I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, Vic Fedeli, remains Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade and is Chair of Cabinet.  Congratulations to both Mr. Rickford and Mr. Fedeli. 

Kenora, Sault Ste Marie, North Bay, Ontario


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The Northern Economist blog started on Shaw Webspace as commentary and analysis of economic issues and policy from a Northern Ontario perspective by Livio Di Matteo, Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It had regular posts from November 2010 to February 2012. Posts continued on Northern Economist 2.0 until 2013 when I took an extended break. Occasional posts resumed effective December 2016. With Shaw terminating its blog space functions, I have archived the old posts at:


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Beacons of Hope exhibition opening at Concordia University-St. Paul

Solo exhibition by Anne Labovitz

Robert McKenzie 0 516 Article rating: No rating

NORTHERN, MINNESOTA  ~~~~~~  September 16, 2021  (LSNews)  I am pleased to announce the opening of my latest exhibition, Beacons of Hope curated by Dr. Megan Arney Johnston at Concordia University-St. Paul.  The site-specific works center on the conceptual and gestural elements of hope.

Beacons of Hope opens Thursday, September 16th from 5-7pm with an artist talk at 5:30.  Please join me.  If you're unable to attend, the artist talk will be recorded and shared at a later date, and the works will be on view through October 13th.

#LSN_Art  #LSN_MNNews 

Lake Superior water levels have declined and have reached the seasonal long-term average

for the first time since April 2014

Robert McKenzie 0 841 Article rating: 4.0

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~~~  September 13, 2021 (LSNews)   As a result of the drier than average weather and water supply conditions, Lake Superior water levels have declined and have reached the seasonal long-term average for the first time since April 2014. Conditions have been wetter in the Lake Michigan-Huron basin and water levels are midway between the seasonal long-term average and the record high water levels that were observed last year. Lake Superior outflows continue to be set in consideration of water levels upstream and downstream.

#LSN_Shipping #LSN_MNNews #LSN_WiscNews #LSN_CircleTour 

Horne Fire Update

Robert McKenzie 0 2599 Article rating: No rating

ISLE ROYALE, MICHIGAN  ~~~~~~~  August 28, 2021 (LSNews)  The Horne Fire is currently 245 acres in size and still 15% contained. Isle Royale received 0.75 inches of rain yesterday. Firefighters are currently working to control and contain the fire. Check out the most recent maps of the Horne Fire

#LSN_Fire #LSN_Outdoors  #LSN_MiNews  #LSN_CookCounty 

Magnus Announces Lineup for 50th Anniversary Season

Robert McKenzie 0 3760 Article rating: No rating

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~~~~  August 26, 2021 (LSNews)   Magnus Theatre is excited to announce a return to the stage, with a full season of Mainstage programming running from September 16, 2021 until May 14, 2022.

The theatre will be celebrating its 50th anniversary during the upcoming season

Horne Fire Update and Closures

Isle Royale National Park

Robert McKenzie 0 3903 Article rating: 4.7

ISLE ROYAL, MICHIGAN ~~~~~~~  August 22, 2021,(LSNews)   Isle Royale National Park is experiencing a wildfire on the island’s east end- the Horne Fire. It is approximately 200 acres in size at this time. Due to the progress of the Horne Fire, ongoing drought conditions, and elevated levels of fire danger, area closures are necessary to maintain public health and safety. Closed areas will be signed where possible and monitored to ensure compliance.

#LSN_MicNews #LSN_Cookcounty  #LSN_Fire

Iola Car Show prepares for Rally for Iola - Sept. 18th

Robert McKenzie 0 3165 Article rating: No rating

NORTHERN, WISCONSIN ~~~~~~  August 16 , 2021  (LSNews) When the Iola Car Show was cancelled in 2020, the staff held a car cruise to celebrate all things cars. This cruise brought in over 1,000 cars that travelled through surrounding communities. This showcase was a treat for Waupaca County - most volunteers are local and without the Iola Car Show, they could really enjoy the car cruise. It was such a "feel-good" event that it will happen again, this time on September 18th, as a last hoorah before the car show seasons takes a break. All show cars are welcome - there is no cutoff year!

#LSN_Outdoos WiscNews 

UP Wide Health Survey Arriving Soon

Robert McKenzie 0 2664 Article rating: No rating

SAULT STE MAIRE, MICHIGAN  ~~~~~~  August 16, 2021 (LSNews)  Health surveys will be mailed this week to randomly selected household addresses across the Upper Peninsula as part of a community health needs assessment sponsored by 32 regional healthcare partners, including local health departments, hospitals, clinics, behavioral health agencies and health foundations.

#LSN_Health  #LSN_MiNews 


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