Premier Greg Selinger put his two top performers in charge of the province’s economy today in a bid to sell the recent PST hike to skeptical Manitobans.
It’s also a signal that today’s shuffle — dropping three long-time ministers in favour of three new faces — is the NDP’s best hope to take them into the next election in two years.
Former Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard is the new minister of finance, replacing Stan Struthers.
Former Health Minister Theresa Oswald is the new of minister of jobs and the economy, the renamed department entrepreneurship, training and trade.
The two women have been the strongest performers in a government that’s appeared tired and directionless, and which under Struthers fumbled the ball in justifying the recent increase to the provincial sales tax. It also opened the NDP to a sustained attack by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, who delayed the passing of a bill that raises the tax with the need for a referendum.
Howard said the government’s job will be to show Manitobans that it is spending taxpayers’ money on the things that matter to them.
She also said the government remains committed to balancing the budget by 2016-2017, two years later than it promised during the last election.
"We’re not going to make those choices by cutting deeply into things that matter to Manitobans, but we are going to make sure that we’re spending money effectively," she said, adding that programs which don’t get results will be dropped.
Asked for his reaction to losing the finance portfolio, Struthers remained upbeat, saying he can continue to help the government build the economy in his new role as minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, which he inherited from Dave Chomiak.
"He’s going to have enormous responsibly to help us grow our economy into the future," Selinger said.
Struthers also becomes minister of municipal government — although he will not be responsible for relations with the City of Winnipeg. That falls to Point Douglas MLA Kevin Chief.
Struthers will also be responsible for negotiating with Ottawa and municipalities in the development of a new Building Canada infrastructure fund. In that role he said he will be in a position to follow through on the government’s promise to spend increased PST revenues on roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.
"I’m in a very good position to continue that work," he said.
Mayor Sam Katz saw the creation of a new cabinet portfolio solely dedicated to Winnipeg as a means to deal with the city’s infrastructure deficit.
"The creation of a new portfolio focused on City of Winnipeg relations is a positive first step," Katz said. "I look forward to working with (Chief) to find solutions for renewing Winnipeg’s aging infrastructure."
Four more women were elevated to other top portfolios.
Erin Selby becomes health minister moving up from advanced education and Kerri Irvin Ross becomes family services minister moving up from housing and community development.
The new faces are Sharon Blady at healthy living and Erna Braun at labour and immigration.
Also new to cabinet is James Allum who replaces Nancy Allan as education minister. Allan, who led the NDP’s efforts to see the anti-bullying bill (Bill 18) become law, does not plan to seek re-election.
Also dropped from cabinet are Jim Rondeau and Christine Melnick.
"We’re at a reset stage in our life as a government," Selinger said. "We’re looking forward to focusing very strongly on jobs and the economy."
The PCs described today’s cabinet shuffle as a game of musical chairs won’t change the culture of the government.
"The NDP believes Manitoba's tax dollars are better spent at the cabinet table," PC Leader Brian Pallister said in a statement. "We believe they are better spent at the kitchen table. NDP ministers sit around the cabinet table and the only time they stand-up is to vote to support historic tax grabs and the hike to the PST."
The new cabinet
Premier of Manitoba
Minister of federal-provincial relations
Minister responsible for the skills strategy
Minister responsible for francophone affairs
Minister of infrastructure and transportation
Minister responsible for emergency measures
Minister of mineral resources
Minister charged with the administration of the Gaming Control Act
Minister of conservation and water stewardship
Minister of Aboriginal and northern affairs
Minister charged with the administration of the Community Economic Development Fund Act
Minister of tourism, culture, sport and consumer protection
Minister charged with the administration of the Liquor Control Act
Minister charged with the administration of the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation Act
Minister of municipal government
Minister charged with administration of the Manitoba Hydro Act
Minister of housing and community development
Minister of jobs and the economy
Minister of family services
Minister responsible for the status of women
Minister of justice and attorney general
Minister charged with administration of the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation Act
Government house leader
Minister of finance
Chair of Treasury Board
Minister responsible for the Civil Service Commission
Minister responsible for persons with disabilities
Minister of multiculturalism and literacy
Minister of health
Minister responsible for the City of Winnipeg
Minister responsible for children and youth opportunities
Minister of agriculture, food and rural development
Minister of healthy living and seniors
Minister of labour and immigration
Minister of education and advanced learning
Deputy minister of Aboriginal and northern affairs
Deputy minister of family services
Deputy minister of conservation and water stewardship
Deputy minister of jobs and the economy
Deputy minister of mineral resources
Deputy minister of education and advanced learning
Deputy minister of agriculture, food and rural development
Deputy minister of tourism, culture, sport and consumer protection
Deputy minister of health
Deputy minister of healthy living and seniors
Deputy minister of finance
Deputy minister of infrastructure and transportation
Deputy minister of municipal government
Deputy minister for the City of Winnipeg
Deputy minister of justice and attorney general
Deputy minister of housing and community development
Deputy minister of labour and immigration
Deputy minister of children and youth opportunities
Deputy minister of multiculturalism and literacy
-- with files from Larry Kusch