The NDP celebrated its new caucus at a swearing-in ceremony on Friday for its 18 MLAs and the introduction of their new critic roles.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew announced his shadow cabinet, which intends to hold the government to account when a new legislative session begins Monday.
New MLAs will cover some of the province's most important files, including Mark Wasyliw (Fort Garry) in finance and Uzoma Asagwara (Union Station) in health, seniors and active living. The NDP also designated a second health critic, with Bernadette Smith covering mental health and addictions.
Kinew said health care will continue to be the party's focus in question period and in the estimates process.
"As we saw from this government’s 100-day (plan), if there’s not an opposition holding this government to account and demanding that they take action on the meth crisis, it’ll simply fall off the radar," he said. "So we’re going to keep the pressure on."
The province didn't mention any action on the mental health and addictions files in its 100-day plan released last week, though Health Minister Cameron Friesen told the Free Press in an interview Thursday that work on that issue is underway.
The NDP ceremony, meantime, was steeped in Indigenous traditions. St. Johns MLA Nahanni Fontaine carried water into the room first of all, a symbol of how water precedes life when babies are born into the world. Elders started the ceremony with blessings.
A few MLAs took their oath-of-office in other languages, with Adrien Sala (the MLA for St. James and the new francophone affairs critic) doing his in French, Kinew speaking his in Ojibwa and Diljeet Brar participating in Punjabi.
The NDP leader noted the "generational change" his party is undergoing.
"I think the main thing you saw here today with our swearing-in was we’ve got a lot of talented new, young MLAs, who are really excited about getting to work and they’re going to be diving straight into the deep end with this two-week session," Kinew said.
— Jessica Botelho-Urbanski