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Ford says government will 'always be there for Ottawa' despite lack of cabinet minister


Ontario Premier Doug Ford did not say whether he plans to appoint a new cabinet minister from Ottawa after Merrilee Fullerton's sudden resignation.

"We make sure that we listen to all 444 municipalities no matter if they have a cabinet minister or not a cabinet minister," the premier told reporters in Hamilton, Ont. on Thursday. "We'll always be there for Ottawa."

After Fullerton's sudden departure last week, Ottawa - the province's second-largest city - now has no representative at the cabinet table.

Asked what plans he has to address that, Ford said he has been on the phone with Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe "almost every single day."

"I was on the phone this morning with him. I'm on the phone all the time," he said. "So you're well-represented in Ottawa. We'll always take care of you."

The closest cabinet representative to Ottawa is Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, who represents Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

Two Progressive Conservative MPPs represent Ottawa ridings: Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari and Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod.

MacLeod was in cabinet during the Ford government's last term but was not reappointed.

Stéphane Sarrazin’s riding, Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, includes the eastern tip of Ottawa, but the lion's share is outside the city.


Ford also said Fullerton was a "wonderful minister."

"I know she wants to spend time with the family. There's no harder worker than Merrilee Fullerton. She contributed a tremendous amount to our team," he said.

Fullerton, a family physician, left medicine for politics in the lead-up to the 2018 election when she won her seat and won again, handily, in 2022.

"A strong sense of duty brought me to politics after decades as a family physician serving my community, to continue my work toward solutions that would address the shortcomings of our health-care system and improve health services for individuals," she wrote in her resignation letter to Ford on Friday.

"To serve the people of this province has been a profound honour."

Fullerton held three cabinet posts in her time in government, starting in 2018.

Richmond Hill MPP Michael Parsa has replaced Fullerton as minister of children, community and social services.


Ford also couldn't resist taking a jab at former Ottawa mayor Jim Watson during his answer.

"He's a great mayor, by the way," Ford said about Sutcliffe. "I've had more phone calls probably in the last week than I did in four years from the previous mayor.”

There is no love lost between the two. The public inquiry into the Emergencies Act heard that Watson, in a conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accused Ford of shirking his responsibilities during the 'Freedom Convoy' protests.

Commissioner Paul Rouleau wrote that a lack of engagement by the premier had residents of Ottawa feeling abandoned by their provincial government.

"I find the province of Ontario’s reluctance to become fully engaged in such efforts directed at resolving the situation in Ottawa troubling," Rouleau wrote.

Ford has denied that, suggesting Watson and former police chief Peter Sloly didn't do their jobs properly.

- with files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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