SOUTHDALE MLA Erin Selby, first elected in 2007, became the province's new minister of advanced education and literacy in a brief ceremony Monday at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
The former TV broadcaster, now in Premier Greg Selinger's cabinet, replaces Diane McGifford, who is not running in the Oct. 4 general election.
It also gives her a higher profile going into a campaign in which the Opposition Progressive Conservatives have targeted south Winnipeg.
"This just shows they're more desperate in this appointment in Southdale," Tory advanced education critic Mavis Tallieu said. "They (the government) are desperately trying to hang on."
The Tories hope to retake Southdale with Judy Eastman, a realtor. The seat has been traditionally Tory, but Selby won it in 2007 by almost 1,300 votes over Tory MLA Jack Reimer, who had held the seat since 1990.
Selby brushed off any suggestion that her appointment was strategic.
"I'm excited to be in cabinet," she said in response. "I'm excited to be working with a government that has the same priorities as Manitoba families."
Selby, the mother of young triplets, said she welcomes the challenge of her new job.
She said she wants to look at a more stable approach to funding universities and colleges and further improving literacy standards.
To increase graduation rates, she wants to examine how credits can be extended to a student who changes a course of study in mid-stream or switches institutions.
"Can we look at transferring those credits or recognizing credits between universities and colleges so that it speeds up the completion and supports the learning that they have done?" she asked.
Selinger also brushed off criticism he appointed Selby to cabinet to boost her re-election chances.
"She's been a very strong constituency MLA and very well regarded for the work she's done out there," Selinger said. "It's because of her excellent performance not only at the constituency level, but at the legislative level that she's being promoted."
Selby's promotion left some people in Brandon criticizing Selinger for passing over Brandon East MLA Drew Caldwell, who once held the education minister's job when it included colleges and universities.
Caldwell told the Brandon Sun he's had very "fluid" conversations with the premier's office in the past few months about how and when the advanced education minister appointment should be made, though he declined to discuss if he had expressed interest in the job.
Mike Waddell, likely to be nominated next week as Caldwell's Tory opponent, said he's "terribly disappointed" that, yet again, Brandon doesn't appear to register on Selinger's cabinet radar.
Brandon University political science professor Kelly Saunders says it's quite clear the Wheat City is on the losing end of the NDP's strategy to shore up votes in "Fortress Winnipeg" ahead of the fall election.
"The world does not revolve around Winnipeg, as we well know outside of the city limits," Saunders said. "For us in Brandon, it is very, very disappointing and it's really unacceptable, I think.
"How can you see it as anything else but a snub of Brandon?"
-- with files from The Brandon Sun