November 14, 2019

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More to shuffle than premier will admit?

Editorial

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/8/2018 (467 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/8/2018 (467 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's no big thing.

After one of the most profound and unusual cabinet shuffles in the province's history, Premier Brian Pallister essentially told the citizenry that it's nothing to worry about. No need to fret. Nothing to see here; time to move along.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Former health (and current education) minister Kelvin Goertzen</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Former health (and current education) minister Kelvin Goertzen

All of which raises the question: if it wasn't such a big deal, why did he do it in the first place?

Conventional wisdom — at least the kind that Tories were willing to discuss openly this week — is that the shuffle was necessary to give former health minister Kelvin Goertzen a new and less-demanding job. For two years, he has carried the water for his government on a seismic shift in resources in the health care system. The construction of personal care home beds has been slowed to a crawl, funding for elective surgeries has been effectively frozen, discretionary services have been cut, Winnipeg hospitals have been reorganized, prompting the closure of emergency departments. All, we are told, to improve service delivery while reining in costs.

For any minister, that would be quite a workload. So, let's accept for the moment that Mr. Goertzen needed a break. That may be good for Mr. Goertzen, but is it good for the province?

And, if we are operating on the theory that Mr. Goertzen needed to be reassigned, what are we to think about the myriad other moves that were made?

Mr. Goertzen ends up in education, triggering the demotion of former minister Ian Wishart. Cameron Friesen, formerly the finance minister, is tapped to move into health. Scott Fielding, the families minister, is reassigned to finance. Heather Stefanson, formerly justice minister, goes to families. And Cliff Cullen moves from his post as minister responsible for Crown services to justice. That last move, along with Mr. Wishart's demotion, creates room for St. Vital MLA Colleen Mayer to move into Crown services.

If government sources are correct, this was all the result of Mr. Goertzen's need for a change of scenery. And despite the fact fulfilling that wish required the installation of new leadership in the four largest and most expensive departments in government, we are told it's no big thing. That's more than a bit of a stretch.

With due respect to the premier's view of the past week's events, it is a big thing.

This cabinet is not awash in overachievers. The first two years of governing have demonstrated the steep learning curve for politicians experiencing their first taste of governing. Decision-making has been erratic, communications a constant cause for concern. Many of the ministers in Mr. Pallister's government seem unsure of themselves; they do not grant interviews to the media, relying instead on communications staff to issue emailed statements in response to journalists' queries.

It is true that most of the ministers involved in this shuffle are among the government's most capable and confident. But they didn't start out that way; assigning them new duties when they have just started to master their first assignments seems a rather risky strategy.

Cabinet shuffles are big deals, in every instance deeply strategic and intensely political. They can re-energize a moribund cabinet, or help a first minister remove weak links from the leadership chain that controls government.

And they are almost never inconsequential.

The full rationale for this cabinet shuffle has yet to be revealed. However, given the intense scrutiny that accompanies a cabinet post, Manitobans will learn sooner rather than later if the premier knew what he was doing.


Who's in, who's out

 

Stays in cabinet position

Moves position, stays in cabinet

Kicked out of cabinet

New to cabinet

Justice

Cliff Cullen

Heather

Stefanson

Finance

Cameron Friesen

Scott Fielding

Health

Kelvin Goertzen

Cameron Friesen

Crown services

Cliff Cullen

Colleen Mayer

Families

Heather Stefanson

Scott Fielding

Education and

training

Ian Wishart

Kelvin Goertzen

Agriculture

Ralph Eichler

Infrastructure

Ron Schuler

Growth, enterprise and

trade

Blaine Pedersen

Indigenous and

northern relations

Eileen Clarke

Sport, culture

and heritage

Cathy Cox

Sustainable

development

Rochelle Squires

Municipal relations

Jeff Wharton

Stays in cabinet position

Moves position, stays in cabinet

Kicked out of cabinet

New to cabinet

Justice

Finance

Cameron Friesen

Cliff Cullen

Heather Stefanson

Scott Fielding

Crown services

Health

Cliff Cullen

Colleen Mayer

Kelvin Goertzen

Cameron Friesen

Minister of families

Education and training

Ian Wishart

Heather Stefanson

Scott Fielding

Kelvin Goertzen

Agriculture

Infrastructure

Ron Schuler

Ralph Eichler

Growth, enterprise

and trade

Indigenous and northern relations

Blaine Pedersen

Eileen Clarke

Sport, culture

and heritage

Sustainable

development

Rochelle Squires

Cathy Cox

Municipal relations

Jeff Wharton

Graphic: Graeme Bruce / Winnipeg Free Press


 

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