Lalonde takes on cor­rec­tions port­fo­lio

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - PA­TRICK WHITE ADRIAN MOR­ROW

Ontario’s new Min­is­ter of Com­mu­nity Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices says she will ap­ply her so­cial worker ex­pe­ri­ence to the job

Ontario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne has ap­pointed her third cor­rec­tions min­is­ter in seven months af­ter the sur­prise res­ig­na­tion of David Ora­zi­etti from the trou­bled port­fo­lio in De­cem­ber.

In a Thurs­day morn­ing cer­e­mony mark­ing a mi­nor cabi­net shuf­fle, Marie-France Lalonde moved from the Min­istry of Govern­ment and Con­sumer Ser­vices, where she had presided since June, to Com­mu­nity Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices.

The prov­ince’s new chief jailer takes over a port­fo­lio that has bounced from cri­sis to cri­sis over the past 18 months. The min­istry is grap­pling with a dys­func­tional new su­per­jail in the Toronto sub­urb of Eto­bi­coke, con­tin­u­ing fall­out at the Ot­tawa-Car­leton De­ten­tion Cen­tre over the use of shower stalls as cells, con­stant labour un­rest, un­der­staffing and, most re­cently, star­tling rev­e­la­tions about the mis­treat­ment of in­mates in soli­tary con­fine­ment.

Ms. Lalonde, whose rid­ing of Ot­tawa-Or­léans in­cludes the Ot­tawa-Car­leton De­ten­tion Cen­tre, leaned on her past as a so­cial worker to an­swer re­porters’ ques­tions on Thurs­day.

“I had the great plea­sure of ad­dress­ing some of the con­cerns of in­mates and in­di­vid­u­als with men­tal health in my for­mer life, I can say. I think this port­fo­lio will bring that as­pect of my ca­reer be­fore pol­i­tics,” she said.

The min­istry hit a less tur­bu­lent pe­riod af­ter Mr. Ora­zi­etti took over last June. But in Oc­to­ber, the rev­e­la­tion that Adam Ca­pay, a young in­dige­nous in­mate await­ing trial and in de­clin­ing men­tal health, had been lan­guish­ing in an acrylic­glass-lined seg­re­ga­tion cell for four years rocked the min­istry.

Ini­tially, Mr. Ora­zi­etti called it an ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ter. A day later, he an­nounced that Mr. Ca­pay’s con­di­tions would be im­proved – that he would be moved to a cell with dimmable lights and would have ac­cess to a day room and a shower.

Mr. Ora­zi­etti some­times strug­gled to han­dle com­mu­ni­ca­tions when he found him­self in the hot seat. On one oc­ca­sion, when a re­porter asked who was to blame for the poor con­di­tions at the Thun­der Bay Jail, he said: “I know you want to place blame. I’m not plac­ing blame on any­one. … I know you want to place blame and I know that’s the way you want to write some of the ar­ti­cles that you want to write.” He then stormed off.

The Ca­pay con­tro­versy be­gan to sub­side af­ter Mr. Ora­zi­etti ap­pointed re­spected for­mer fed­eral pris­ons om­buds­man Howard Sapers to head up a re­view of soli­tary con­fine­ment and boosted the num­ber of staff work­ing di­rectly with seg­re­gated in­mates.

But on Dec. 16, the day af­ter a men­tally ill in­mate in seg­re­ga­tion died at the Cen­tral East Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre in Lind­say, Ont., Mr. Ora­zi­etti, 48, an­nounced his re­tire­ment from pol­i­tics.

Ms. Wynne placed Kevin Flynn on the file on an in­terim ba­sis be­fore an­nounc­ing Ms. Lalonde’s ap­point­ment.

“I think we all agree, as the Pre­mier said, that the con­di­tions of [Mr. Ca­pay’s] seg­re­ga­tion were un­ac­cept­able,” Ms. Lalonde said Thurs­day. “We have al­ready made some com­mit­ments to change those.”

Ms. Wynne also made a few other tweaks to her cabi­net to high­light small busi­ness, se­niors’ af­fairs and women’s is­sues.

The Pre­mier opted to hive off a piece of the eco­nomic devel­op­ment min­istry and hand it to Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Jeff Leal. Mr. Leal will now be in charge of small busi­ness as well as his cur­rent du­ties.

Mr. Leal said the most re­cent change was made be­cause Mr. Duguid needs more time to steer Ontario’s trade with the United States in light of pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s pledge to rene­go­ti­ate NAFTA. Mr. Trump’s move could slam the prov­ince’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor, par­tic­u­larly auto mak­ers. Mr. Leal added it had noth­ing to do with Mr. Duguid’s health – the hard-charg­ing min­is­ter suf­fered a heart at­tack last year.

“It goes with­out say­ing that with the new ad­min­is­tra­tion that will be en­ter­ing the White House on Jan. 20. … Pres­i­dent Trump talked about var­i­ous is­sues re­lated to NAFTA and the TPP, and that will take a lot of fo­cus of Min­is­ter Duguid’s time,” Mr. Leal said.

Ms. Wynne also up­graded Women’s Is­sues into a full port­fo­lio and put Indira NaidooHar­ris in charge. Ms. NaidooHar­ris will also re­tain her Child Care port­fo­lio. She faces the twin tasks of im­ple­ment­ing Ms. Wynne’s prom­ise to cre­ate 100,000 more child-care spa­ces over five years and tack­ling the prov­ince’s gen­der wage gap.

Tracy MacCharles, who was pre­vi­ously in charge of Women’s Is­sues, will re­place Ms. Lalonde in Govern­ment and Con­sumer Ser­vices.

She pre­vi­ously held the con­sumer ser­vices por­tion of the port­fo­lio from 2013 to 2014. She will be tasked with steer­ing leg­is­la­tion on payday loans, doorto-door sales and home in­spec­tions.

The Pre­mier fur­ther ex­panded Dipika Damerla’s se­niors’ af­fairs port­fo­lio to a full min­istry; pre­vi­ously, Ms. Damerla had been re­spon­si­ble for co-or­di­nat­ing se­niors’ is­sues across other govern­ment de­part­ments.

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Marie-France Lalonde takes over the Cor­rec­tions port­fo­lio, which was va­cated by David Ora­zi­etti in De­cem­ber, as part of a cabi­net shuf­fle an­nounced by Ontario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne on Thurs­day.

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