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Rookie MLAs become ministers as Selinger shuffles cabinet

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What was supposed to be some minor tinkering to his cabinet ended up being a little bit bigger for Premier Greg Selinger today.

In the process two rookie MLAs got bumped to cabinet, a somewhat rare move as in the past newly-elected MLAs first had to learn how to be MLAs before they were considered cabinet material.

The newly appointed ministers are Point Douglas MLA Kevin Chief, who becomes the minister of the new portfolio for children and youth opportunities, and Swan River MLA Ron Kostyshyn, who becomes minister of agriculture, food and rural initiatives.

"We have a strong, experienced cabinet and today we're adding two exciting new MLAs to our team," Selinger said in statement. "Kevin's already made a difference in the lives of many youth and in his new role, he'll be in charge of creating opportunities for more kids and keeping them out of crime. As a farmer himself, Ron will bring a strong voice for the priorities of farmers, producers and rural families to the cabinet table."

Chief’s portfolio won’t include the province’s troubled child welfare system. That will fall to Labour Minister Jennifer Howard, who will now also tackle family services.

Kostyshyn is no stranger to politics or farming. He is the former reeve of the RM of Mossey River and served on its council before that for 20 years. He runs a cattle ranch near Ethelbert.

The premier said the conservation and water stewardship departments will merge and he assigned veteran ministers to new jobs. The departments were split up several years ago when the cleanup of Lake Winnipeg became a priority.

In addition to Howard taking on new duties, Gord Mackintosh moves from family services to be minister of conservation and water stewardship, Christine Melnick goes into of immigration and multiculturalism from water stewardship and Jim Rondeau becomes the minister of healthy living, seniors and consumer affairs.

"These are ministers who have worked tirelessly to make life better for Manitoba families. I'm grateful for all that they've done and I'm excited to see them take on their new responsibilities," Selinger said.

The shuffle was needed when former finance Minister Rosanne Wowchuk did not seek re-election in the Oct. 4 vote. That put Stan Struthers into finance while wearing the agriculture hat.

As well, former conservation minister Bill Blaikie also did not run for re-election. Energy and Mines Minister temporarily took on Blaikie’s duties. Chomiak also handles the environment portfolio.

The premier said other experienced members of cabinet will maintain their responsibilities in the lead up to federal/provincial discussions, such as regarding health-care transfers.

Selinger also announced the creation of a new Priorities and Planning Committee of Cabinet. He said it will be tasked with co-ordinating key government priorities to help meet the needs of Manitoba families and keep jobs and the economy growing.

-- with files from Larry Kusch and Mary Agnes Welch

History

Updated on Friday, January 13, 2012 at 10:08 AM CST: Adds info about Ron Kostyshyn

12:00 PM: Updates with full writethru, describing cabinet changes, adds quotes from Selinger

2:46 PM: Corrects grammatical problems.

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