Monday, January 18, 2010

Dombrowsky for Wynne

I was honestly surprised to see the cabinet shuffle impact education when it was announced today. Kathleen Wynne (Don Valley West) moves from Education to Transportation, where the news release says she will, "help implement the government's MoveOntario 2020 public transit plan, improve service-delivery at GO Transit and work with municipalities to build and maintain the highways and bridges that are critical to our economic success."

Leona Dombrowsky (Prince Edward-Hastings) moves from Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to Education. Quoting the release, she, "leads our efforts to deliver full-day learning for four- and five-year olds, further increase test scores and graduation rates."
I've had the pleasure of speaking with both these women— there was a time when I was also an agriculture reporter and spoke with Dombrowsky fairly freqently when she was first appointed to the role to replace Steve Peters. She is feisty and can speak to both rural and urban issues— I imagine these are some of the reasons why she has been shuttled into Education.
Though Wynne was the education minister I've spoken to the least — for whatever reason, and in no way intentional, I spoke with Gerard Kennedy and Sandra Pupatello more often — I always found our interviews to be straightforward and to the point. I have had a wonderful relationship with her staffers.
I can't shake the feeling, however, that this is a demotion for Wynne and somewhat of a promotion for Dombrowsky. Education is the second-larges line item (after Health and Long-term Care) in the provincial budget and full-day learning is and will be the centrepiece of this government's mandate. MoveOntario 2020? Does anyone outside the GTA care?
Early Learning? It impacts every family in the province.
So, a goodbye with thanks to Wynne, the longest-serving Education Minister of the McGuinty government and a hello and welcome to Dombrowsky.


Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised at all ER.

Dombrowsky is more acquainted with small town/rural education issues. I'm encouraged, as it might balance off the glut of GTA ministers nicely.

I'm thinking either that Wynne had had enough and perhaps saw the writing on the wall on a few issues and asked to be moved, or it was entirely Dalton's doing to ease him into election mode.

Dombrowsky is likely an easier sell in the typically Tory ridings...or so they think.

As with everything else...we shall see......


RetDir said...

Minister Wynne has done a good job in education, but may have become too close over time to the portfolio, and particularly to the unions. Transportation may be a better fit for getting reelected in Don Mills (if you can fix gridlock on the DVP). Don't know the new Minister at all, but she does have experience as a school board trustee (and chair, I believe), and Rick Johnston, formerly a trustee and a well respected president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, was (will be?)her Parliamentary Assistant. More tea leaves may be read after any staff changes in the Education Minister's office and the Ministry itself.

Education Reporter said...


I'd forgotten Dombrowsky was a former trustee. I had a 'd'oh' moment as I was reading that. With my ag brain on, I could only remember she was a former 4-H member and that her family still farms. Johnston was well-known as OPSBA president— particularly after the 2004-05 contract negotiations, and beat John Tory in that byelection after the 1+year it took to find a supposedly 'safe' Tory seat to run in. His riding also neighbours Dombrowsky's and is very rural, which may explain why he was selected as PA for Ag, Food and Rural.

Leanna Pendergast (Kitchener-Conestoga) and Liz Sandals (Guelph) are the current education PAs, pending any shuffle among their ranks. Sandals is a former trustee, I'm pretty sure Pendergast wasn't. Sandals has been PA in education for some time whereas Pendergast — a rookie MPP from the 2007 vote thanks to riding redistribution — is newer to the role.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Ret Dir that Wynne is too close to the unions and to other stakeholders like Annie Kidder. I'm thinking that all-day kindergarten is not going to be the easy-sell that they think--especially when the economic situtation in Ontario is still pretty dire and new taxes on the way.

Anonymous said...

One aspect of the whole ELP fails to consider is that fewer children that's led to the continual projected under-enrollment issues in the majority of boards throughout the province is that it effects more than just schools.

Fewer children also means hardship for all daycare providers, recreations programs, memberships to clubs, gyms AND it also effects the bottom-line of many non-profit agencies and organizations who depend on donations to survive.

In a place that has suffered a major employer exit, a school closure the addition of an ELP is just not the timely answer in my community that it may have been.

I would have a tough time recommending the ELP or the before/after school program when doing so would take away from another community service or organization that offer the same, reliable and consistent services.


Anonymous said...

Anon. 11:57am

If I were an elected backbencher MPP and saw first-hand that the Minister could be pushed by Ms. Kidder and her organization(all unelected parents) I wouldn't be happy about it because the Liberal/NDP lines are blurred badly at the moment I believe because of the influence and yes favoritism shown unelected individuals.

I would also suspect that Dombrowsky has a softer edge to her than does Wynne. If memory serves me correctly Dombrowsky came from the Catholic system in eastern Ontario.

I have also heard it rumoured that she gets along very well with the two opposition critics.

Anonymous said...

Just watching The Agenda with Steve Paikin interviewing an inside Liberal expert on this cabinet shuffle.

Paikin asks why the shuffle?

Expert says it's all about the next election and this is his A-Team going into the campaign.

Very interesting program.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 19 Jan. 13:23

Softer edge? I doubt that. I've seen the scrappy side of Dombrowsky personally on two occasions.
She does not back away from making her point.