BY KELLY ROCHE & TONY SPEARS
Brainy Bob Chiarelli has never been known for his charisma, but as the new Energy Minister — and one of three Ottawa MPPs sworn in as cabinet ministers Monday — he’ll need some razzle-dazzle to deflect the savage criticism dogging his portfolio, a political science professor said.
“Obviously, they needed someone who’s good with the politics of presenting the case,” University of Ottawa professor Luc Turgeon said, pointing to Chiarelli’s experience and media savvy.
“It wasn’t necessarily a good place to put someone new in that file.”
Since the Liberals’ sudden cancellation of two planned gas plants ahead of the 2011 provincial election, the energy portfolio has been a lightning rod for criticism.
Outgoing minister Chris Bentley was saved from parliamentary contempt charges only by the sudden resignation of then-Premier Dalton McGuinty and his decision to prorogue the legislature.
Bentley hadn’t even been minister when the plants were scrapped — at a cost to the taxpayer of about $240 million — so Chiarelli can expect to get charbroiled from day one.
Perhaps resting up in preparation, the Ottawa West-Nepean MPP was unavailable for comment Monday evening.
Meanwhile, Ottawa-Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi hasn’t let his promotion to Minister of Labour go to his head.
“No, I’m still Yasir,” he said, when the Sun called him “Mr. Minister.”
He too can expect criticism, especially as the Progressive Conservatives push for labour arbitration reforms, which would curtail pay raises for government workers.
“If there are good ideas to be found from any of (the PCs and the NDP) I look forward to working with them and bringing them forward to the government,” Naqvi said.
He will be meeting with opposition labour critics and labour leaders in the coming days as he adjusts to his new responsibilities.
“Obviously I have a lot of learning to do,” he said.
Naqvi, who is also Ontario Liberal Party President, joins cabinet for the first time since his election in 2007.
“He is considered a bit of a rising star in the party, a young figure,” said Turgeon.
“I’m not sure why they necessarily put him at labour. Perhaps it’s sending a signal that (the Premier) wants to repair, in many ways, the relation with the labour movement.”
The city’s third minister, Ottawa-Vanier MPP Madeleine Meilleur, remains Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, despite supporting Premier Kathleen Wynne’s leadership rival, Sandra Pupatello.