Little ‘new’ about this cabinet shuffle
By CHRISTINA BLIZZARD, Queen’s Park Columnist

Last Updated: August 18, 2010 6:36pm

John Gerretson is responsible for the Ontario Pesticide Ban

Is this a suprise?

Think of it as the old gray mayors’ shuffle.

At the end of a long, hot summer of intense political upheaval Premier Dalton McGuinty moved to shore up his political fortunes by appointing two new backbenchers to cabinet.

Did I say new?

Both of them have been around the block a few times.

Toronto Centre’s Glen Murray, 52, and Ottawa West-Nepean’s Bob Chiarelli — who’ll be 69 next month — are the “fresh” faces at the cabinet table.

Not exactly the most dynamic duo.

Murray becomes research and innovation minister. He’s formerly a Winnipeg mayor. Chiarelli gets the infrastructure ministry. He’s reused and recycled from the Ottawa civic scene.

That leaves plenty of capable, eager young backbench MPPs feeling burned. Make that eager, young and disgruntled.

Both Murray and Chiarelli were elected only this year.

Murray replaced George Smitherman, who’s running for David Miller’s job in Toronto. And Chiarelli replaced Jim Watson, who is likewise running for mayor of Ottawa.

It’s like a head-spinning musical mayors’ chairs around here.

“Here, you take my seat and I’ll run for mayor.”

“Why, thank you. I don’t mind if I do. Why don’t you take my seat in the Ledge?”

McGuinty has split the job of Infrastructure and Energy Minister Brad Duguid into two.

That must be a huge relief. Both those portfolios are massive and contentious.

Liberal MPPs are busily fending off growing anger at soaring electricity prices. Smart meters, time of use rates, the HST, have all pushed costs to the stratosphere.

Duguid will have his hands full over the next 14 months in the run-up to next year’s election just keeping his head above water on electricity.

Handing infrastructure to Chiarelli, a political veteran is likely to raise the hackles of some ambitious backbenchers who’ve been waiting patiently for years for a chance at the big time in cabinet.

It’s hardly surprising Gerretsen was dumped from cabinet.

The Kingston area MPP presided over the eco fee fiasco that was hugely embarrassing to the government in July.

He’s been put out to pasture where he can do least harm — in the consumer services ministry.

This isn’t a major shuffle.

It was expected that McGuinty would bring Murray and Chiarelli into cabinet in the run-up to next year’s vote.

It does raise the question of which cabinet ministers will not be running next year. McGuinty was predictably mum on that, saying cryptically, “All my ministers are running.”

He just didn’t say what they’re running to — or from.

Sudbury’s Rick Bartolucci was bounced from public safety in the wake of the “five-metre” rule boondoggle around the G20 security fence.

You have to wonder if Bartolucci and Gerretsen are calling it quits after long careers in politics.

The premier admitted it’s been a tough summer.

“It’s been said that in days of old, after a ship had been tossed about on the open-seas storm, you take advantage of the first clearing to read the stars, get your bearings and regain your course,” he said, poetically.

“You might say we are doing that today.”

The Tory opposition was more down to earth. It’s just a way to meet promises made to Chiarelli and Murray, said Peter Shurman.

“We now have two net new ministers who have received their rewards for having been elected most recently in the Liberal caucus to act as additional apologists for Dalton McGuinty and the province of Ontario,” he said.

Say one thing for McGuinty.

With this shuffle, he’s reaffirmed his commitment to the environment. The ministers who screwed up weren’t dumped. No one’s losing any pay.

They’re just being reused in lower profile jobs.