Volume 91, Issue 26

Wednesday, October 15, 1997

Country Club road


Editorial: Go fish!

Premier Mike Harris dealt a new deck of Cabinet Ministers last week as he shuffled his players and showed Ontario a new trick. The most widely publicized move was that of Education Minister John Snobelen to a demoted position of Minister of Natural Resources.

As former interim Health Minister, David Johnson moves into the education hot seat. The biggest question might be why Snobelen was given the job of Education Minister in the first place.

As a high school drop-out, Snobelen's competence in his former position was often criticized. Recently, the much heated debate over Bill 160, which will reform the public education system, has been the thorn in Snobelen's side.

Many are not complaining about Harris' switch of Education Ministers. Teachers' unions are already asking to meet with the new minister after his briefing this week on Bill 160. Johnson, known as the "undertaker" because of his calm, problem-solving manner, is seen as much more reasonable and sensible than Snobelen.

Although Johnson will still be responsible for carrying out the government's agenda concerning education reform, members of the education sector are relieved they have a new person to deal with. The war between teachers' unions and Snobelen over the bill had become bitter and rhetorical. It was becoming less about the students and more about who could yell louder. It is time for rational, productive discussion on behalf of both parties and hopefully a new guy in the hot seat will make a difference.

Was Harris' shuffle of Education Ministers simply an effort to calm the storm of teachers' unions and delay a possible strike or perhaps a pre-election-make-everybody-like-me tactic? His rearrangement will certainly slow down deliberations with teachers' unions and maybe in the process put out firery tempers that have recently flared.

And what about the other governmental mice who scurried during the shuffle?

Former Minister of Transportation Al Palladini now finds himself in the realm of Economic Trade and Tourism, coined by Harris as being the "government's best salesman." Former Labour Minister Elizabeth Witmer, who found herself backing down to union requests over Bill 136 last month, is now suddenly Health Minister.

Two questions come to mind as a result of these changes: Were these people moved because they were not performing up to Harris' expectations and how easy is it for us to take ministers and their positions seriously when they change jobs like we change our clothes?

How is it someone can be Labour Minister one day and Heath Minister the next? Perhaps that is why it is called a shuffle – you only receive the luck of the draw.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazed@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997