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Home Opinion With Fullarton resignation Ford government loses someone with talent who wanted to make a difference

With Fullarton resignation Ford government loses someone with talent who wanted to make a difference

Watching Dr. Merrillee Fullarton handle hostile questions from opposition members over the last five years, one got the feeling that maybe she wasn’t cut out for the bearpit that  both the Ontario Legislature and Parliament in Ottawa have long been. Fullarton, an Ottawa-area family doctor announced her resignation from both cabinet and her seat in the legislature in a surprise move Friday.

People familiar with Fullarton describe her as somebody who got into politics to make a difference. “She doesn’t need the money and she’s not interested in fame,” said one observer who described Fullarton as a person of high integrity and intelligence.

A glance at Fullarton’s resume shows an individual who was interested in the bigger picture when it came to health care both locally and system-wide. Fullerton was a former president of the Academy of Medicine in Ottawa and served as a member of the Health Professionals Advisory Committee of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network. She was selected as a City of Ottawa Board of Health member for a four-year term which ended in 2014. She was also a member of The Ottawa Hospital’s Community Advisory Committee from 2008 to 2010.

Fullerton was a representative on the Ontario Medical Association Council as well as a delegate to the Canadian Medical Association Council. In those roles, she brought forward concepts regarding the sustainability of Canada’s healthcare system, health human-resource planning, social determinants of health, and virtual care, including mHealth, also known as “mobile health”. Fullerton assisted in creating and delivering a leadership program for women physicians.

A rookie MPP in 2018, Fullarton was handed the two most stress-prone portfolios imaginable. First she was given the Long-Term Care job, just as that function was being hived off from the Health portfolio. With the onset of COVID, she was blamed for the explosion of deaths that took place in nursing homes in that first year of the pandemic when there was neither vaccine nor any pharmaceutical treatment for the virus. She ordered an inquiry into the system that found that long-term care had been neglected for many years prior to the Ford Government’s election. Testimony from senior bureaucrats showed that when she took over as minister, there was effectively no department to manage the system, that she and her staff had to start from scratch creating a functioning department. That was happening just as COVID arrived.

Her last portfolio was as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, which covers another hot button issue-autism. She was criticized for the slow rollout of financial support for roughly 8,000 autism families. She did not provide a reason for her departure, but a search of the 207-page budget document released the day before her resignation did not find a single reference to autism.

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