One of Premier Doug Ford’s top members of cabinet, Labour Minister Monte McNaughthon, has announced that he will be stepping away from provincial politics on Friday.  

As a result, David Piccini has been appointed to the role of the Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.

McNaughton said his departure is not a result of the ongoing Greenbelt scandal that has put Ford’s government in the crosshairs of critics but rather a choice of personal career change into the private sector, according to the Toronto Star.

“It is always difficult to know the right time to leave politics. After much soul searching over the summer months, I have accepted a job in the private sector,” said McNaughton.

His absence will force Ford into a second cabinet shuffle in the last two weeks. 

“I have spoken with Premier Ford to let him know that I am stepping down from my cabinet duties immediately and will be resigning my seat in the days ahead. I will not be seeking re-election,” said McNaughton.

“I support Premier Ford and am proud to have served in his cabinet. I am forever grateful for the opportunities he’s given me to contribute to this amazing province. I believe strongly in his team and its vision.”

Premier Ford issued a statement in response to McNaughton’s resignation, saying that, “He made this decision based on what is best for him and his family at this point in his life and career. I’m very grateful for Monte’s work as a key member of our team.”

Ford went on to praise the former minister’s work, “Monte helped build a coalition of private-sector union support that has never existed in the history of the Ontario PC Party. He introduced ground-breaking measures to protect workers’ rights and ensure that more workers are in the driver’s seat of their own careers,” he said.

Some political pundits have thought McNaughton had the qualifications to be a future Conservative party leader. 

He was noted for his ability to work with labour unions, being endorsed by eight private-sector unions in the June 2022 election, including an endorsement from union leader Patrick Dillon, who laid the groundwork for the Working Families coalition.

On Oct. 1st, Ontario’s hourly minimum wage will increase to $16.55, up from $15.80, thanks largely to McNaughton’s efforts as Labour Minister. 

McNaughton also played a key role in the Tories’ Big Blue Collar Machine strategy, which earned the Progressive Conservatives a new riding in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor and Timmins – ridings that were once long standing strongholds for the NDP.

McNaughton won his riding for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex four times and his resignation will likely hurt Ford, who is already in hot water over the recent Greenbelt scandal. 

His resignation marks the third time a member of Ford’s party has left since the scandal came to light, along with former chief of staff Ryan Amato and Ford’s housing policy adviser Jae Tresdell. 

The controversial land swap deal was met with such public backlash that Ford was forced to reverse the deal and apologize for his decision.