Former city councillors, former mayors and a former CFLer were among the seven MPPs appointed to cabinet by Premier Doug Ford.
Six of the seven are newly elected MPPs, with one — Michael Parsa — serving a second term at Queen’s Park.
Charmaine Williams, a former Brampton councillor who is now associate minister of women’s social and economic opportunity, said she will in part look at how to help women who have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
“I know that in Ontario, women have opportunities that we’re going to be looking at making possible, and that’s going to be my focus right now,” she said.
Williams, a mother of five — including a set of 10-year-old twins, and whose eldest is heading off to college this fall — said she is thrilled to be the first Black woman in Ford’s cabinet and had her family by her side at the swearing-in on Friday.
The other new cabinet members:
- George Pirie, minister of mines, is a former mining executive and mayor of Timmins.
Pirie defeated New Democrat Gilles Bisson, a 32-year veteran tied as the longest-serving MPP in the legislature, in the June 2 election. He will now oversee the massive Ring of Fire chromite mining project that has been in the works for more than a decade.
In the 2018 municipal election, the rookie politician toppled incumbent Timmins mayor Steve Black — who himself had lost to Bisson as the Progressive Conservative candidate in the 2014 election.
The June 2 win by Pirie, who garnered almost 65 per cent of the vote to 29.5 per cent for the NDP veteran, was all the more remarkable because there was no Liberal candidate in Timmins to split the progressive vote.
- Michael Ford, minister of citizenship and multiculturalism, was first elected to the Toronto District School Board in 2014. He moved on to city council in 2016, representing Etobicoke North.
Ford, whose mother Kathy is the premier’s sister, ran in York South-Weston in the June 2 election, knocking out the NDP incumbent Faisal Hassan in a riding that has traditionally sent Liberals to Queen’s Park.
He dismissed any suggestion that nepotism played a role in his appointment, saying he has served on the school board and council in one of the city’s most diverse areas.
“I am so proud to be given this opportunity,” he told reporters on Friday.
- Graydon Smith, minister of natural resources and forestry, is the former mayor of Bracebridge who faced a tough election against a Green candidate in the traditionally PC riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka.
He took about 45 per cent of the vote, to the Greens’ 41 per cent.
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Smith ran in the riding after long-term MPP Norm Miller stepped down.
Smith served his first term as Bracebridge mayor starting in 2010, and was also deputy chair of the District Municipality of Muskoka. He was also president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario during the pandemic.
- Michael Kerzner becomes solicitor general following his first election win in York Centre.
Kerzner describes himself as an entrepreneur who has worked in the fields of technology and bioscience, and a long-time volunteer with local synagogues and interfaith community organizations. He is also a food bank volunteer and has lived in the riding for more than 25 years.
He is married with three grown children.
- Michael Parsa was re-elected in Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill and is now the associate minister of housing.
He lives in the community with his wife, and had been running a family business in the Greater Toronto Area.
Parsa has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management, and has volunteered with programs for vulnerable youth and also served as a mentor.
In the previous legislature, he served as parliamentary assistant to the minister of economic development, job creation and trade and parliamentary assistant to the president of the Treasury Board.
- CFL hall of famer Neil Lumsden is minister of tourism, culture and sport, three weeks after being elected MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.
The former running back, who was on four Grey Cup-winning teams, won the riding after longtime New Democrat incumbent Paul Miller was kicked out of the party and ran as an independent, placing a distant fourth.
Lumsden brings a varied resume to the job, aside from his Canadian Football League career in Hamilton, Toronto and Edmonton.
In 2003, he served as chief operating officer of the World Cycling Championships in Hamilton in addition to time as a football coach at the University of Guelph and athletics director at Brock University. He has also worked in marketing and broadcasting.
Five years ago, Lumsden appeared on TV’s “The Amazing Race Canada” with his daughter, Kristin. His son Jesse is a former CFL player and Olympic bobsledder.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie
Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1
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