Awarding Ontario's top honour falls behind schedule under Doug Ford government

The Order of Ontario is supposed to be awarded annually, but Premier Doug Ford's government didn't name any recipients to the province's highest honour in 2019. 

It's been nearly two years since the last honourees were presented with their trillium-shaped medallions by Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

Cabinet chooses the recipients of the Order of Ontario on recommendations from an advisory panel. The award goes to people whose excellence in their field "has left a lasting legacy," according to criteria listed on the province's website.

Only 730 people have ever been named members of the Order of Ontario. They include: Canada's first female astronaut and the world's first neurologist in space, Roberta Bondar; award-winning filmmaker David Cronenberg; entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Lee-Chin. 

A spokesperson for Lisa MacLeod, the minister of Heritage, Tourism, Sport and Culture Industries, says the advisory council has made its recommendations for the 2018 Order of Ontario and is currently reviewing nominations for the 2019 awards. 

The recipients "will be announced later this winter with an investiture ceremony to follow soon after," said MacLeod's director of communications Derek Rowland.

Ontario Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration/Twitter

"Last year, our government was proud to complete a review of the Order of Ontario program and appoint five new members to the advisory council to more accurately reflect Ontario's diverse communities," said Rowland in an email to CBC News.

Those five advisory council members included three with strong links to the Progressive Conservative party: former PC MPP Isabel Bassett (who is also the spouse of former premier Ernie Eves); Postmedia executive chair Paul Godfrey, a longtime PC fundraiser and party member; and former federal Conservative cabinet minister and ex-commissioner of the OPP, Julian Fantino. 

This marks only the second time a provincial government has missed an annual presentation of the Order of Ontario since the award was created in the 1980s. 

There are no 2006 appointees to the honour among the recipients listed on the province's Order of Ontario website, and a search of archived news releases shows the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty did not present the award during 2007. 

The Order of Ontario is typically presented early each year to some two dozen people. The last recipients were named by Kathleen Wynne's cabinet in January 2018 and received their awards the following month.  

Despite the backlog of two years' worth of pending awards, nominations for the 2020 Order of Ontario are now open, with a deadline of March 31.