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Wilson resigns from cabinet, Progressive Conservatives leaving questions swirling

November 9, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Brock Weir

 

Less than five months after seeking re-election as MPP for Simcoe-Grey, Jim Wilson tendered his resignation from the Provincial Cabinet and the Progressive Conservative Party on November 3.

Mr. Wilson, who was first elected in 1990, resigned his position as Minister of Economic Development on Friday citing time to address addiction.

Questions, however, have continued to swirl around the reasons for his sudden departure, including allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour.

While enquiries to Mr. Wilson’s office by The Times were not answered by press time, the office of Premier Doug Ford would not comment on the specifics.

“Jim Wilson is no longer a Minister of the Government, nor is he a member of the PC Caucus,” said spokesman Simon Jefferies. “He has entered a treatment facility to deal with addiction issues. Andrew Kimber resigned from the Premier’s Office. As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on specific details of internal staffing matters. Generally speaking, if allegations are brought forward to senior staff of the Government or the PC Caucus, a process is activated immediately and we provide staff with support and reassurance of their right to work in an environment that is free of harassment. To protect the identity of any individual who brings forward an allegation, we would not comment on particulars.”

Follow up questions on whether there is a process currently underway in the context of Mr. Wilson went unanswered.

Mr. Wilson’s resignation sparked a cabinet shuffle on Monday morning which saw Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte take on the Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade portfolio on an interim basis, along with shuffles in five other key ministries and two other governmental positions.

“After four months of unprecedented action, we are taking this opportunity to calibrate out cabinet assignments to ensure we continue to deliver on our commitments to the people,” said Mr. Ford in a statement. “We have the best team in politics and a plan that is working.”

Since the Provincial Election this past June, Mr. Wilson has been a highly visible member of Cabinet, being Ontario’s point man on trade throughout tense discussions between the Federal Government and American counterparts which ultimately led to the recent United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal.

There was no indication that anything was amiss as late as Thursday, November 2 when Mr. Wilson joined the Premier and other members of the Progressive Conservative government at an announcement in Sarnia highlighting measures intended to make it easier for businesses to hire employees, part of their message that “Ontario is open for business.”

“Our government was elected on a clear mandate – to Open Ontario for Business. For too long, job creators in Ontario have been burdened by excessive red tape,” said Wilson at the time. “We’re reducing the regulatory burden on job creators so they can thrive, remain competitive and create jobs. Ontario is open for business.”

Following the last election, Mr. Wilson shared his excitement with The Times on taking the lead on this complex portfolio, saying that the three-prong ministry hit very close to home.

“When I was at Canada Day celebrations, one fellow yelled out, ‘Don’t forget about us people at Honda. We’re relying on you, Jim,’” he said. “It was a pretty humbling experience. Next to the auto sector, which I don’t think gets a lot of attention here in Ontario, is agricultural and food processing, which are the second highest contributor to Ontario’s GDP.”

He also doubled down on his pledge to bring new hospitals to both New Tecumseth and Collingwood, a task which has become a particular passion project.

“The two hospitals need to be redeveloped. We need to expedite as best we can getting Georgian Bay pipeline water down to Tottenham. We need to fully fund our hospices at both ends. Those were the priorities that came out in the campaign.

“I had a brief chat with the Minister of Health [when we were sworn in] and she only had her hand off the Bible for about 30 seconds before I said, ‘I’m going to need two hospitals.’ She said, ‘I knew you were going to say that!’ We’ll work on it. Hospitals take a long time to plan and require a lot of money, but I am committed to doing it. I said during the campaign that I felt I was the candidate in the best position to get the job done, and I intend to get the job done. I don’t intend to leave politics until I have built those hospitals.

“This is my third campaign talking about a new hospital for Alliston because it is just so obvious that it is needed and they do tremendous work there. It is the fifth most efficient hospital in the province, which is remarkable for its size, and it also has the fifth shortest wait times for emergencies in the Province. It was built for 7,000 emergency room visits a year and last year did just under 50,000. It is remarkable what they can do, but it is remarkable what they will be able to do when they get a new facility, not IF they get a new facility.”

         


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