Conservative cabinet lacks racial diversity

Premier Doug Ford (Front row -fifth from left) with the other members of his cabinet.
Sitting next to Ford is Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (sixth from left).

Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet were sworn in at Queen’s Park last Friday as the Progressive Conservatives returned to power in Ontario for the first time since 2003.

But shortly after the swearing in, the new government came under attack for the lack of diversity in its cabinet.

Except for Raymond Cho, the MPP for Scarborough North, the other 20 members of the new cabinet are all  white.

Two out of three opposition parties said the makeup of the cabinet does not reflect the diversity of either the Tory caucus or the province as a whole.

Newly elected New Democrat Sarah Singh, whose party now forms the official Opposition in the legislature, said the image of the predominantly male, white cabinet sends a disheartening message for those hoping to feel supported by the Ford administration.

“For me as a young woman of colour, and I’m sure for many others across this province, they’re not seeing themselves reflected in the decisions that were made today,” Singh said after extending her congratulations to the newly  appointed ministers.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford greets new cabinet colleagues at Queen’s Park.

Mike Schreiner, the leader of the Green party and MPP for Guelph, noted that having only one member of a visible minority, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, does not adequately represent four million Ontarians who identify as belonging to a minority group.

Although Ford’s two main leadership rivals – Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney -were assigned the prestigious titles of health minister and attorney general respectively. Schreiner criticized the comparative lack of women in the top positions in the  new government.

“All governments should strive for gender parity, so it is unfortunate that just seven of the 21 ministers named today are women,” he said.

“This is made more troubling by the fact that you have reduced the Ministry of the Status of Women to a non-portfolio responsibility and unnecessarily changed the name to ‘women’s issues.”‘

Political observers have noted that no minister in the new cabinet is specifically responsible for anti-racism.

On social  media there  has been a great deal of criticisms of the new cabinet with hashtags such as .OnGovtSoWhite decrying the lack of racial diversity.

In the provincial elections last month, the Progressive  Conservatives won 76 seats  and the New Democratic Party, 40. The Liberals won just seven seats.