Ontario Premier Doug Ford is replacing Merilee Fullerton, his beleaguered Long-Term Care minister, with Rod Phillips, who was forced out of cabinet late last year after taking a vacation to a ritzy Caribbean island in secret when the Canadian public was being told not to travel.

Ford’s office confirmed the cabinet shuffle on Friday afternoon, which comes as Ford ejected several rural cabinet ministers in favour of several younger, diverse members of caucus.

"With 21 per cent of adults now fully vaccinated as Team Ontario sets new records in daily shots, we can be confident that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. As we continue our work to rebuild and support Ontario’s health system, our renewed team is well positioned to deliver on the priorities that matter to Ontarians, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, supporting businesses and job creators and building transit infrastructure," Ford said in a statement.

Fullerton oversaw a ten-month long ordeal where hundreds of long-term care homes suffered major COVID-19 outbreaks, killing nearly 4,000 residents and at least 12 staff members.

She will now become Minister of Children and Youth and Community Services.

She was widely criticized for her response to the pandemic’s impact on congregate care settings during the first and second waves of the pandemic in Ontario, with a commission finding there was no established plan to protect long-term care residents from the threat of a pandemic.

Phillips was Ford’s second finance minister until December, when it was revealed he took a vacation to the posh French colonial outpost of Saint Barthélemy, with staff posting social media videos to suggest he was still in Ontario at the time.

Federal guidance at the time advised all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel abroad.

He resigned in disgrace after an impromptu apology broadcast live from Pearson airport upon his return.

In addition, ministers Jeff Yurek, Ernie Hardeman, Laurie Scott and John Yakabuski are now out of cabinet altogether.

Ross Romano, formerly colleges and universities minister, will become Government and Consumer Services Minister.

Jill Dunlop will replace Romano in the post-secondary education file.

Core members of Ford’s pandemic response, including Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy, Health Minister Christine Elliott, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Education Minister Stephen Lecce will remain in their posts.

After receiving word that Phillips will also help craft the Ontario PC’s 2022 election platform, the opposition NDP said he was a “bad choice.”

“Doug Ford kept Rod Phillips near and dear to him even after his elaborate St. Barts vacation cover-up. Phillips jetted off to luxurious St. Barts, covering up his tracks as he went with pre-written messages, pre-recorded Christmas greetings, and a fake Zoom background, while the rest of Ontario hunkered down and followed public health advice to stay home over the holiday,” the party said Friday. 

Joining cabinet in full roles for the first time are Stan Cho, who becomes Associate Minister of Transportation, Prabmeet Sakaria, who becomes President of the Treasury Board, Parm Gill, who becomes Citizenship and Immigration Minister and Dave Piccini, who becomes Minister of Environment.

Also joining cabinet are Khaleed Rasheed as Associate Minister of Digital Government and Nina Tangri as Associate Minister for Small Business and Red Tape reduction.

The shuffle was conducted virtually with Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell on Friday

Full list:

  • Jill Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North, becomes Minister of Colleges and Universities.
  • Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, MPP for Kanata-Carleton, becomes Minister of Children, Community and Social Services.
  • Parm Gill, MPP for Milton, becomes Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
  • Rod Phillips, MPP for Ajax, becomes Minister of Long-Term Care.
  • Dave Piccini, MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, becomes Minister of Environment.
  • Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, assumes a merged role as Minister of Northern Development, Mining, Natural Resources and Forestry, as well as Indigenous Affairs. This new northern and economic focused ministry will enhance development potential and sustainability in the North. Energy will transfer to a new separate ministry.
  • Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, becomes Minister of Energy.
  • Ross Romano, MPP for Sault Ste. Marie, becomes Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
  • Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, MPP for Brampton South, becomes President of the Treasury Board.
  • Kinga Surma, MPP for Etobicoke Centre, becomes Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron Bruce, becomes Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
  • Stan Cho, MPP for Willowdale, becomes Associate Minister of Transportation, reporting to Minister Mulroney.
  • Jane McKenna, MPP for Burlington, becomes Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, reporting to Minister Fullerton.
  • Nina Tangri, MPP for Mississauga Streetsville, becomes Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape, reporting to Minister Fedeli.
  • Kaleed Rasheed, MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville, becomes Associate Minister of Digital Government, reporting to Minister Bethlenfalvy

--With files from CTV News’ Colin D’Mello