All of East York’s incumbents retained their seats when the electoral dust settled after the Oct. 6 provincial election.
But that doesn’t mean they retained their Queen’s Park portfolios.
Cabinet minister Kathleen Wynne was shuffled again by Premier Dalton McGuinty last week, and on Wednesday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath gave MPPs Michael Prue and Peter Tabuns new responsibilities as well.
Wynne, who represents Don Valley West, was provincial education minister from 2006 until just last year, when McGuinty moved her to the transportation portfolio. Now she’ll serve as minister of Aboriginal Affairs as well as minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. She says she’s undaunted by the prospect of cabinet multitasking.
“I think that that’s the challenge and I’m excited to take it on,” Wynne said.
“I think that I have a good working knowledge of municipalities around the province because I’ve dealt with all of them on transportation issues,” she said. “When I was the minister of education… I spent a fair bit of time working with people in the aboriginal community… and so I look forward to broadening that relationship.”
Even though she just received the ministries last week, she already has ideas for them. She has been on committees and advisory boards on economic development for aboriginal people and education. Her current goals in municipal affairs are to “consolidate and improve the working relationships with municipalities.”
She said her strong listening and learning skills will benefit her new ministries.
“Both these portfolios have a lot to do with building relationships, it’s very important to have that skill of listening and problem solving at the same time,” Wynne said.
But she acknowledged that having two ministries does present a challenge — because she will have to “divide her time” physically between the two offices. She said she will have her Blackberry on all the time to “make those connections.”
Meanwhile, provincial New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath announced her new “shadow cabinet” on Wednesday, and both Michael Prue and Peter Tabuns got new assignments.
Prue, the MPP for Beaches-East York and already the NDP’s finance critic, is now also the citizenship and immigration critic.
He’s been the finance critic for the past six years, and said he looks forward to his new, additional role. These are responsibilities that he said his 20 years of experience working with the Ministry of Employment and Immigration has prepared him for.
“A lot of people don’t realize the experience I have working with immigration,” he said. “I worked the last 11 years as counsel to the minister of immigration, where I helped newly-landed immigrants, helped deport the bad guys and helped people settle into Canada.”
Tabuns, the MPP for Toronto-Danforth — and former executive director of Greenpeace — was energy and environment critic. Now he’s responsible for energy and education.
“Education is something that is critical for the people of Ontario, and now I get to work closely on policy,” Tabuns said.
“There are many young families in the riding of Toronto-Danforth who value education,” he said. “It means I have the opportunity to ensure that education is protected. This is going to be critically important with the introduction of all-day kindergarten.”
Both Prue and Tabuns said that their years of experience helped earn them their new, high-profile portfolios.
“We have been around for a long time. We know the ropes. It makes sense they would gives these appointments to people who they know can balance the issues,” Prue said.
Tabuns added that he thinks the appointments reflect their experience at both levels of government — provincial and municipal.
“Our abilities that we showcased at these levels are being reflected with these appointments,” he said.