N.S. cabinet unveiled: Casey now deputy premier, finance minister
Keith Doucette, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Thursday, June 15, 2017 7:46AM ADT
Last Updated Thursday, June 15, 2017 7:16PM ADT
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil shuffled the deck with his 17-member cabinet Thursday, adding three new faces while shifting three veteran members to key posts, including the minister who bore the brunt of labour unrest with the province's teachers.
McNeil named Karen Casey as deputy premier and shifted her from education to the finance portfolio during a swearing in ceremony for his new majority government at Pier 21 on the Halifax waterfront.
Casey became the contentious face of the government's 16-month dispute with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union that ended with a contract being imposed on its 9,300 members in February, but McNeil said she remained a valuable member of the government because of her experience and ability.
"She's been a tremendous minister," he said. "She chaired the Treasury Board ... and managed the entire building of our budget. She has been in this House in senior positions for a very long time and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with her."
For her part, Casey -- a former teacher who had been a Tory cabinet minister and interim party leader before crossing the floor -- said she was happy with the change and added responsibility.
She disagreed with a reporter's assertion that she had left the new education minister, Zach Churchill, with a lot on his plate.
"I think there are a lot of people who had a lot to say," said Casey. "But I met with a lot of teachers, I listened to what they had to say and I believe our platform and the decisions of the department reflect those (concerns)."
Churchill, who moves from municipal affairs, said he believes he can work with teachers as the government moves ahead with changes aimed at improving classroom working conditions.
"Obviously we have to do some repair work in terms of the relationship," said Churchill. "They need to know that government cares about what their concerns are and that we are going to keep moving on them."
Meanwhile, the minister who oversaw two back-to-back surplus budgets in finance, Randy Delorey, was given the vital health portfolio, replacing Leo Glavine who was shuffled to communities, culture and heritage.
It's another large responsibility for Delorey, who is seen as a reliable and capable hand and who will deal with a system plagued by access problems, including doctor shortages and overcrowded emergency rooms.
Public unrest over the state of the system is believed to have led to the Liberals' reduced majority of just 27 seats in the 51-seat legislature, something Delorey said he's keenly aware of.
"It's no secret primary care ... is what we heard about over the election campaign," he said. "That will be an area of focus for me."
Much of the dissatisfaction with health care was registered in Cape Breton, where the Liberals were left with only two seats after the loss of backbencher Pam Eyking and veteran cabinet minister Michel Samson.
Many of Samson's former duties, including Liberal house leader, were transferred to Glace Bay MLA Geoff MacLellan, who leaves transportation for several portfolios including business, energy, Service Nova Scotia and trade.
"People pay attention in bits and pieces to what's happening in the legislature, so I think the decorum and the manner in which we communicate and operate is important. For me the general approach is going to be respect and mutual understanding."
Other significant moves saw Mark Furey named the new attorney general and justice minister, and Lloyd Hines tabbed as the replacement for MacLellan at transportation.
Furey, a former RCMP officer, was also given a newly created responsibility that will focus on public sector contract negotiations. He said he's aware of the need to rebuild relationships with the unions and their leaders.
"There's a need to be honest and frank and respectful," he said. "Thirty-two years in the RCMP in applying that approach worked well in some of the most confrontational situations."
McNeil also moved Patricia Arab, Iain Rankin and Derek Mombourquette from the back benches to cabinet.
Arab is the new minister of internal resources and Communications Nova Scotia, while Rankin gets the environment portfolio and Mombourquette gets municipal affairs.
McNeil had a smaller slate of possibilities to choose from than he did in 2013, and as a result there is a total of five women in cabinet, one fewer than named in 2013.
He said his thinking was to keep some continuity in cabinet, while addressing the need for change expressed by the electorate in areas such as education and health care.
He had a message for those who spoke out about the state of the province's health care system and classrooms.
"We have heard you and we know there is more work to be done," he pledged during his formal remarks to a gathering of family members and party supporters.
"I'm not sure why but there is a great feeling of emotion that was not there even three and a half years ago," he said. "I'm thrilled to again stand here as your premier."