Ontario government won't 'deviate' from fiscal plan, says new finance minister

Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips says the provincial government has no plans to "deviate" from its controversial fiscal priorities but it will admit mistakes when it makes them.

In an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Phillips said the government will continue to focus on three priorities detailed in its budget: the problem of affordability; spending within its means; and making sure that money is available for health and education.

Phillips, Ontario's former environment minister, replaced Vic Fedeli in the finance portfolio when Premier Doug Ford shuffled his cabinet on Thursday.

"We have to do a great job of making sure that people understand what those priorities are and we need to communicate it," Phillips said on Monday. "When we make a mistake, we'll correct that mistake."

Phillips noted that the province has reversed spending cuts when people have reacted negatively. 

"We need to make sure we're listening and hearing the reaction we are getting from people," he said." We'll keep making those adjustments, but we won't deviate from those three principles because that's what promises such a positive future for Ontario. If we don't do those three things, we will have a problem."

Phillips added that he firmly believes that good communication starts with listening and he plans to focus on communication in his new role.

Despite being asked repeatedly what Fedeli did wrong, Philllips declined to comment on Fedeli's performance as finance minister. 

Fedeli has been shuffled to the ministry of economic development, job creation and trade, and he is now chair of cabinet. Phillips said he spent time with Fedeli on the weekend to review the many "hot issues" in the finance portfolio.

CBC

Ford said on Friday that "there's no better salesperson" than Fedeli.

Phillips agreed. "What the premier said was absolutely right. Vic Fedeli will be the best salesperson this province could have, to get out there and to make the case for Ontario being open for business and for jobs. I think he'll be just great at that," he said.

'It's not the first time a politician has been booed'

Phillips also declined to comment on booing of Ford in Nathan Phillips Square last week during the rally and parade for the Toronto Raptors following their historic NBA championship win. He also declined to comment on what the booing may indicate.

"It's not the first time a politician has been booed," Phillips said. 

"Any time that a government undertakes a major shift, a major change, then you are going to hear from people who are happy about it and you are going to hear from people who are unhappy about it."

Phillips noted that thousands of people attended Ford Fest in Markham, Ont. on the weekend.

Asked about two patronage appointments that were rescinded by Ford following the resignation of Dean French, his chief of staff, on Friday, Phillips said Ford made the decision as soon as he understood the "biographical background" of the two people appointed. 

According to a Globe and Mail report, Tyler Albrecht and Taylor Shields, who were appointed as agents general to New York and London, respectively, had ties to French.

"This isn't a government that claims to be perfect," Phillips said. "That was the right action and I absolutely support that action."