HALIFAX -- Iain Rankin was sworn in as Nova Scotia's 29th premier Tuesday along with a cabinet that included two former leadership rivals.

Rankin tapped ex-Liberal party leadership contenders Labi Kousoulis and Randy Delorey for high-profile jobs, with Kousoulis getting the crucial finance portfolio and Delorey assuming duties as minister of justice and attorney general.

Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc swore in the 17-member cabinet at the Halifax Convention Centre during a ceremony that was scaled back due to COVID-19 protocols.

"We are writing a new chapter for sure, but it is one that reflects and respects our past," Rankin said in an address after swearing his oath of office. "Governments that have come before ours ... have provided us with strong foundations to support our agenda."

The 37-year-old Rankin was chosen as Liberal party leader earlier this month at a virtual convention in Halifax. He captured his party's top job by billing himself as an agent of generational change and has vowed to be a collaborative premier who will place an emphasis on the environment.

He takes office with a shortened window to establish himself -- a provincial election must be called by the spring of 2022. Rankin, however, said he is immediately focused on governing and dealing with important issues such as jobs, the economy and tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

He told reporters there is no shortage of challenges.

"I'm really impressed with the team that I have and I'm putting them in the right place to help me deliver on the commitments I made during the leadership campaign, Rankin said. "Issues of climate change, inequality and building back a strong economy that's more inclusive."

Kousoulis will have the tough task of balancing fiscal discipline with the need to bolster an economy damaged by the pandemic. Nova Scotia went from a projected surplus of $55 million to a deficit of $779 million over the past fiscal year -- a figure former premier Stephen McNeil recently said would be closer to $500 million by this spring's budget.

"The work will be to ensure that we're supporting Nova Scotians and getting ourselves back on a solid financial footing," Kousoulis said. He said that while the upcoming budget is already largely prepared, there could be a chance to tinker by adding some of Rankin's priorities.

Signalling change, Rankin created a new department -- Infrastructure and Housing -- that will be headed by former business minister Geoff MacLellan, who has said he won't be running in the next election.

He also created two offices: Mental Health and Addictions under new Health Minister Zach Churchill, who shifts from education; and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, which will become the responsibility of Tony Ince, who remains as minister of African Nova Scotian affairs.

Kelly Regan was sworn in as deputy premier and retains her position as minister of community services while taking on responsibility for the province's seniors.

Cabinet newcomer Keith Irving was appointed minister of the newly renamed Department of Environment and Climate Change. Other first-time cabinet ministers include Ben Jessome as minister of the public service commission, and Brendan Maguire, who takes over municipal affairs.

Irving, a former architect who lived for 26 years in Iqaluit, said he's ready to deal with what has been a long-time interest. "While living in the Arctic in the early '90s, I saw the effects of climate change," he said. "It was very real there and it is now very real for all of Canada and Nova Scotia."

Chuck Porter returns to cabinet in a new role as minister of lands and forestry, while Derek Mombourquette is the new minister of education.

The Immigration Department will be getting a new title as well, becoming the Office of Immigration and Population Growth, overseen by Lena Metlege Diab, who will remain as minister of labour and minister of Acadian affairs.

Lloyd Hines remains as minister of transportation, while others retaining their old jobs include Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell, Service Nova Scotia Minister Patricia Arab and Culture and Heritage Minister Suzanne Lohnes-Croft.

Rankin replaces McNeil, who announced his retirement last August after 17 years in politics.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021.