THE UP AND COMERS
A number of key ministers picked up additional or new responsibilities in the cabinet shuffle announced yesterday by Premier Gary Doer.
Steve Ashton leaves Conservation to take on the new portfolio of Water Stewardship, a high-priority post that Doer has touted for months. For Ashton, who experienced some turbulence in Conservation, the move is a promotion to a smaller, but more politically important post.
MaryAnn Mihychuk leaves Industry and takes on the vacant portfolio of Intergovernmental Affairs with added responsibilities for international trade. Mihychuk will not only become the point woman in talks with the City of Winnipeg on the mayor's proposed "New Deal" on taxation, but also represent Manitoba in all bilateral negotiation on trade co-operation deals with neighbouring states and provinces.
Scott Smith, who kept a low profile in the benign posts of Transportation and Government Services, gets a huge promotion to the Industry portfolio, with added responsibility for economic development. The NDP government is fiercely proud of its track record of attracting and keeping jobs and Smith will be under enormous pressure to carry the ball for the province in key negotiations with business.
Five newcomers were welcomed to cabinet yesterday, appointments that rewarded loyal and capable backbenchers, and shored up NDP representation in key regions of Winnipeg and the province.
Doer rewarded three loyal MLAs who were first elected in 1999.
Nancy Allan becomes Labour and Immigration Minister.
Stan Struthers takes on Conservation.
Jim Rondeau has been put in charge of Healthy Living.
Doer was also able to bring two genuine rookies into the mix.
Peter Bjornson, who appeared for weeks to be a shoe-in for Education, was given that portfolio.The award-winning teacher is a favourite of the premier. His victory in Gimli was identified by Doer as one of the most satisfying of the last election. Christine Melnick, a former school trustee, becomes Family Services Minister. She is a long-time, hard-core NDP loyalist who struck a blow for the NDP in the Riel constituency in the last election.
MOVING DOWN OR OUT
Government Services and Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux continues to lose both profile and responsibility in the cabinet. Lemieux leaves the hot-button portfolio of Education, where he seemed often uncomfortable with opposition grilling in the legislature, to a post that produces few inquiries.
Brandon MLA Drew Caldwell, who served first as education minister and then later as family services minister, asked to leave cabinet because of ongoing health problems. Caldwell has been fighting respiratory problems that have so far defied accurate diagnosis.