Friesen retains role in new cabinet

Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen. (SUPPLIED IMAGE)

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Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen retains his portfolio after Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister shuffled his cabinet Oct. 23. Before the election, Pallister’s cabinet included the premier plus 13 ministers, though Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer was not re-elected on Sept. 10.

In addition to replacing Mayer, the new cabinet includes one more member. That allowed two MLAs to be promoted, with each taking on a newly created department. Sarah Guillemard will serve as Minister of Conservation and Climate, while Reg Helwer will be Minister of Central Services. The premier said the realigned departments reflect his government’s most pressing priorities. “We need to sustain our services better for the long term. There’s a fiscal sustainability piece, there’s an ecological or climate piece to this re-organization that will give us renewed focus, and there’s an economic development piece,” said Pallister.

The changes devote a specific department to conservation and climate,  which replaces a broader sustainable development department. An environmental advocate welcomed the new conservation focus and urged the province to follow it up with green action. “It’s a signal that the government is taking the biodiversity and climate crises more seriously,” said Eric Reder, a Wilderness and water campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.

Guillemard said she’s open to discussing the idea of a carbon tax but isn’t convinced the levy is a key requirement to fighting climate change. “There’s an opportunity there, that people have to understand what the objectives are for that. Do I think that that’s the key element in solving issues? No,” she said.

The premier said the new central services department will “modernize” procurement, information technology and shared services, with a focus on saving money. The premier said that work might include selling off some government assets.

Pallister has now added two ministers since he first reduced the size of the provincial cabinet to save money in 2016. But the premier said his new team is still about 30% smaller than the most recent Manitoba NDP cabinet.

Pallister replaced previous municipal relations minister Jeff Wharton with Rochelle Squires.

Manitoba’s ministers for health, education, finance and all other portfolios will remain in their current roles.

Highlights

Two new members

• Fort Richmond MLA Sarah Guillemard becomes Minister of Conservation and Climate.

• Brandon West MLA Reg Helwer becomes Minister of Central Services.

Existing ministers move into new roles

• Former agriculture minister Ralph Eichler becomes Minister of Economic Development and Training.

• Former growth, enterprise and trade minister Blaine Pedersen becomes Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development.

• Former sustainable development minister Rochelle Squires becomes Minister of Municipal Relations.

• Former municipal relations minister Jeff Wharton becomes Minister of Crown Services.

• Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox will add minister responsible for the status of women to her role, which she takes over from Rochelle Squires.

Other cabinet shuffle changes

• Economic Development and Training will now include post-secondary education, which was split off from the education department.

• Agriculture will now also include natural resources, including forestry, mining, wildlife management and watershed districts. Some of these matters were previously covered within sustainable development. Other previous sustainable development files will now fall under conservation and climate.

• Reg Helwer will become the minister responsible for the civil service commission.

What stays the same

• Manitoba’s ministers for health, education, finance and all other portfolios will remain in their current roles.

• Premier Brian Pallister will still cover intergovernmental affairs.

• Heather Stefanson will again serve as deputy minister.

• Rochelle Squires remains the minister responsible for Francophone affairs.

How the opposition NDP responded

• In a tweet, NDP leader Wab Kinew alleged the shuffle “shows it’s still full steam ahead on cuts to education and health.” He was not available for interviews to explain that claim.

• Kinew announced his shadow cabinet will change to assign MLA Nello Altomare as critic for kindergarten to Grade 12 education and MLA Jamie Moses as critic for economic development and training.

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