Doug Ford cabinet shuffle sees new role for Yurek

Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek is taking on a new portfolio as Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a cabinet shuffle just months after the election.

The changes follow the resignation of Jim Wilson, who stepped down on Friday, just hours after appearing with Ford at a border crossing near Sarnia, Ont. to unveil a sign advertising Ontario as "Open for Business."

Yurek becomes minister of transportation. He was the health critic when the Progressive Conservatives were in opposition, then took on the natural resources and forestry portfolio when he first joined the cabinet.

He trades portfolios with John Yakabuski, who will become minister of natural resources and forestry.

PC House Leader Todd Smith will take on the additional role of minister of economic development, job creation and trade to replace Wilson.

Sylvia Jones will take over the job of community safety and correctional services minister from Michael Tibollo, who will become minister of tourism, culture and sport.

Bill Walker will join cabinet by succeeding Smith as minister of government and consumer services. He is the only newcomer in the shuffle.

Some caucus positions are also shifting, with Lorne Coe appointed government caucus whip and Doug Downey deputy whip.

Ford said all other ministerial, parliamentary assistant, and government caucus and committee roles will remain unchanged.

"After four months of unprecedented action, we are taking this opportunity to calibrate our cabinet assignments to ensure we continue to deliver on our commitments to the people," Ford said in the statement.

Ford's office said Wilson's abrupt resignation and departure from the Tory caucus was so he could "seek treatment for addiction issues."

Critics respond

Critics voiced concerns about the suddenness of the shuffle, saying Ford needs to explain his reasons for making such significant changes so soon .

"These actions make it abundantly clear that Ford is trying to paper over the problems in his hand-picked cabinet. To remove and demote a number of ministers after just a few months is troubling," NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said in a news conference.

Governments typically sit for at least a year -- enough time to see policies develop -- before switching their lineup, said Genevieve Tellier, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa.

It's also unclear why Ford made so many changes rather than simply replacing Wilson, though it suggests the premier was not satisfied with how a few ministers were handling their portfolios despite praising some of them as recently as last week, Tellier said.

"Maybe Ford was expecting more from those ministries," she said. "That may be part of the explanation and if so, then we should expect more activity in the coming months about those portfolios."

With files from The Canadian Press