Premier Shawn Graham has shaken up the senior ranks of his cabinet, shuffling three of his most controversial ministers to lower-profile positions.

Michael Murphy has been moved from Health to Justice and Consumer Affairs, a cabinet position that he has openly admitted to coveting since the Liberals took power in 2006.

Murphy has been on the hot seat for months following his controversial restructuring of the health system trimming the number of regional health authorities to two from eight and most recently the fight with doctors over a two-year fee freeze.

Graham said Murphy had requested the switch to the Justice department.

Kelly Lamrock has been transferred to the Department of Social Development from Education. Lamrock saw waves of protests and eventually a court challenge over his plans to eliminate early French immersion last year. The Liberal government eventually hammered out a compromise on how the province would teach French second language courses.

And T.J. Burke has been bounced to Environment after several controversies in the Department of Justice, including accusations that he spoke publicly about the Erin Michael Walsh court case.

Graham told reporters on Monday that the baggage carried by some of his ministers because of controversial decisions was overshadowing some of the government's successes.

"I felt it was important that if we were going to move forward successfully with some of the changes that we had to take away the polarizing aspect that had started to permeate within New Brunswick politics," Graham said.

"These ministers recognize that they worked very hard to see the foundation laid for the change, but to see that critical success achieved now we needed new ministers to build on that foundation."

Other cabinet changes include:

  • Victor Boudreau to Business New Brunswick from Finance
  • Greg Byrne to Finance from Business New Brunswick
  • Roland Haché to Education from Environment
  • Mary Schryer to Health from Social Development

Graham said he's already handed several of his new ministers marching orders on what he sees as their priorities in their new portfolios.

Boudreau, who comes from the southeastern riding of Shediac-Cap-Pelé, has been assigned to drum up more economic development opportunities in northern New Brunswick.

Byrne will be asked to use the salesmanship skills that he brought to Business New Brunswick to tell businesses across Canada and into the United States about the advantages of the Liberal government's lower taxes.

And Haché has been asked to develop a response to the recent commission report written by Gino LeBlanc on improving the province's francophone education system.

The province's new environment minister said he was "ecstatic" about the transition to a new department. Burke said he didn't think the switch of cabinet positions was a demotion.

"This is an elevation of portfolio for me," Burke said.

"This is a key demonstration of the premier's confidence in me, in his cabinet members, in the people who have been doing work for New Brunswick."