Ontario’s Cabinet of Nobodies

I realize I haven’t been very active on my blog for the last month. I have been occupied working on the second draft of my book Public Representations and also starting the semester teaching two courses. The theme of today’s post arises from my public management course.

The Government of Canada website provides the titles and membership of cabinet committees, posts ministers’ mandate letters, and provides profiles of ministers. The Government of Ontario website does none of the above. Why? I can’t say for sure, but here are some hypotheses.

Providing the titles and membership of cabinet committees provides some insight into how cabinet works and makes it easier for lobbyists and public interest groups to know whom in cabinet to target. Probably the Ford Government wants to keep its decision-making process opaque and to leave public interest groups in the dark.

Ministerial mandate letters enable the public to hold ministers accountable. Here, too, the Ford Government likely doesn’t want to be held accountable.

Pierre Trudeau once said that, fifty metres from Parliament Hill, MP’s are nobodies. By not posting ministerial profiles on either the premier’s team page or even on departmental websites, the Ford Government seems to be sending out the message that, even in Queen’s Park, ministers are nobodies. Or perhaps the reason is that there would inevitably be comparisons made between ministers’ profiles and that of the premier, which would highlight the paucity of the premier’s accomplishments. By the way, deputy ministers’ profiles are posted, so the absence of ministerial profiles is still more egregious.

On the page where deputy ministerial profiles can be found, there is a link to Ontario’s chief scientist. If you click it, you find out it refers to Molly Shoichet, who was fired by the Ford Government the day after it took office, and the page is described as “no longer current and provided for archival and research purposes.” I guess Molly isn’t going to be replaced any time soon. That would bring us to the topic of the Ford Government’s disregard for the ideas and experience of smart and learned people, which will be theme for a future post.

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