Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle is replacing Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci in Northern Development and Mines. The Thunder Bay MPP had been minister of Natural Resources and will be replaced in that portfolio by Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti.
Wynne had promised MPPs from Northern Ontario would be included in her cabinet, but with Bartolucci announcing his retirement Feb. 7, Wynne was forced to look outside of Sudbury.
“I would like to thank Rick for his tireless efforts as a member of our family and team,” Wynne said of Bartolucci in a press release. “Since his election in 1995, Rick has served the good people of Sudbury as their representative and all the people of Ontario through his many roles in cabinet.
“Ontario is a stronger and safer province thanks to Rick Bartolucci’s dedication and hard work.”
Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk said the city would miss having Bartolucci’s voice at the cabinet table. In his 10 years in cabinet, he has brought close to $8 billion in provincial funding to Sudbury, by his own estimate.
“It’s going to be hard for this community,” Matichuk said, at Bartolucci’s formal retirement announcement at the Caruso Club on Feb. 7. “But there comes a time when everybody needs to make a personal choice.
“I’m going to tell you personally … it’s not a happy day for me. But it’s a happy day for him.”
Bartolucci was a tireless resource who was always ready to help with whatever project Matichuk was working on, she said.
“Whenever you would go talk to Rick, he would always say, ‘Well, I can help you with that,’ whether it was his ministry or not. He was always trying to work for the city.”
While losing influence at Queen’s Park is never a good thing, she said she’s ready to work with whomever Wynne chooses.
“It’s always a concern, but it’s only going to mean that we’ll have to fight a little harder,” Matichuk said. “I have good relationships with all politicians, so it’s not a problem. But I’ll miss Rick personally. He’s a good friend and he was a trailblazer for our community.”
Debbi Nicholson, president and CEO of the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, said many people failed to appreciate the extent of what Bartolucci was able to do for the city.
“No other leader has done what he has done for Sudbury, in terms of money he has brought to the community, job creation, and on and on,” she said. “He has done amazing things for this community, and the community should be very grateful to him.”
Since 1990, Sudbury has had a minister at some level of government, with the exception of a few years. MPPs Shelley Martel and Floyd Laughren both held powerful cabinet posts under Bob Rae’s NDP government that held power from 1990-1995.
Sudbury MP Diane Marleau served in Jean Chretien’s cabinet from 1993-1999, holding, among others, the health portfolio and public works. Four years later, Dalton McGuinty swept to power in Ontario and Bartolucci entered cabinet.
Nicholson said one only need compare the dollars Bartolucci brought in as an opposition MPP with the money he brought to Sudbury as a cabinet minister to show the advantages of being part of the government.
“It is concerning — obviously, you get more attention when you have someone sitting on the government side of the house,” she said. “I think it’s going to have a significant effect on this community. And I don’t think we can really know yet to what extent that’s going to happen.”
The fact that Bartolucci only retained his seat by a few hundred votes in the 2011 provincial election highlights how accustomed Sudbury came to getting funding for community projects, she said.
“I don’t know that people really stopped to think about what Rick had done for this community. I think it was more a protest vote against the government as a whole, rather than against him as a sitting member.
“If people really thought long and hard about what Rick has done for this community, I think most would support him, regardless of (what party) he is with. He has brought a lot to this community.”
The most likely local candidate for a cabinet post — Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas — was at Bartolucci’s retirement announcement, but wasn’t allowed in. In a sign of the highly partisan relationship between the two, Gélinas was told it was a private function and she wasn’t invited.
“That was a shock to me,” Gélinas said, speaking to reporters in the hallway outside. “When a minister does an announcement, an MPP is always allowed to listen in. And I was told that I was not allowed to go in. It was like, ‘Say that again?’”
The veteran NDP health critic stands a good chance at a cabinet post should Andrea Horwath become the next premier. She sidestepped a question about her cabinet prospects — “being in the spotlight is part of the job,” she said – and talked instead about how the signs were long coming that Bartolucci was retiring.
“I saw it coming,” she said. “Representing Sudbury means you’re not at home Monday to Thursday. It’s hard on his family … His family wanted him home.”
Bartolucci has said he will stay on until a new provincial election is called. Wynne, who has a minority government, has said she intended to try and govern for as long as possible.