Kathleen Wynne's new cabinet: Meet Dr. No

Eric Hoskins has been named Ontario's new health minister. (Antonella Artuso/Toronto Sun)

Eric Hoskins has been named Ontario's new health minister. (Antonella Artuso/Toronto Sun)

Christina Blizzard, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:01 PM ET

TORONTO — Just call him Dr. No.

That’s the unenviable job Eric Hoskins will have as the province’s new health minister.

He will have to say no to new spending. No to people seeking new treatments paid for by OHIP.

No to doctors, nurses and other health-care workers looking for a pay hike.

In this, he’ll be aided and abetted by his predecessor in that ministry, Deb Matthews.

In Kathleen Wynne’s new cabinet sworn in Tuesday, Matthews takes over the role of Treasury Board chair.

It will be up to her to tell all those unions who are expecting a hand-out from the government they spent their dues electing that there's no new money.

When they call in the IOUs for all that support they gave the Liberals in the election, it will be up to Matthews to tell them the cupboard is bare.

Matthews's appointment is a message to the bond-raters who are poised to bring in a credit downgrade in the wake of Charles Sousa's May 1 budget.

While Liberals bragged during the election it was a "progressive" budget, it gave no nod to fiscal prudence or to getting the province's fiscal house in order.

Creating this new role for Matthews is supposed to send a message to the big-money guys who watch this stuff carefully that this province is about to get serious about balancing the books.

I won't hold my breath.

This government hasn't shown the slightest inclination to hold the line.

Their so-called "pay freezes" are a joke.

Their failed attempt to hold the line on teachers' salaries last year was a case in point.

In the dying days of his government, former premier Dalton McGuinty brought in drastic measures in the form of Bill 115, aimed at holding the line on teacher salaries.

Former education minister Laurel Broten steadfastly stared down the powerful union. What happened to her?

She was dumped as education minister after Wynne became premier -- and she's in Nova Scotia now.

That's why I'm not optimistic Wynne and Matthews are any more likely to hold the line now than they were then.

They came to power deriding Tim Hudak and the PC notion they would cut 100,000 positions. But if the Liberals are going to balance the books by 2017-18 as they claim, how will they do so without getting the public payroll under control?

This shuffle is surely a rebuke of Finance Minister Charles Sousa. He's lost a hefty part of his portfolio to Matthews. While Matthews is taking on an unenviable part of his job, it makes you wonder if Wynne doesn't have as much faith in Sousa as she does in Matthews.

Already cracks are appearing in how to deal with the unions.

Matthews was quite firm.

"Our budget was very clear that there's no more money for wage increases," she said.

"Unions knew that. Some of them -- not all of them -- supported us anyway," she told reporters, adding it's not going to be all "lollipops and rainbows."

Then education minister Liz Sandals seemed to refute that.

She said they're into "net bargaining" with the teachers.

"That doesn't necessarily mean there'll be no wage increases. Net zero means if you can find saving in one part of the collective agreement that you can have an increase in another."

So zero doesn't necessarily mean zero.

She said it could be achieved through savings in benefits.

Or, of course, they could always increase class sizes -- and give teachers' a pay hike.

The possibilities are endless.

Some union leaders are more favoured than others. Warren "Smokey" Thomas, who heads the second largest public-sector union, OPSEU, wasn't invited to Tuesday's swearing it.

He made the mistake of telling voters during the election there's plenty of fat to cut.

He's right, of course.

Take a look at the Sunshine List of government workers making more than $100,000 a year and you'll find plenty of fat.

But it was all sweetness and light Tuesday. Sousa will bring in his budget July 14.

That's when the hard work starts.


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