Finance Minister Tom Marshall was sworn in as Newfoundland and Labrador's 11th premier Friday morning, taking over the foundering government while the Tories prepare for a leadership race.
Marshall takes over the reins of power from Kathy Dunderdale, who announced Wednesday she would be stepping down.
"Wow," Marshall exclaimed as Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan referred to him for the first time as premier.
"Still not used to it, right?" Marshall told reporters after the ceremony.
He recalled a sobering, yet ligh,t moment Tuesday night, shortly after Dunderdale asked him to take over. He said it spoke to the new age of social media.
"I went home afterward that night and my daughter came in, and she said, 'Dad, are you premier?" Marshall said to laughter from reporters. "That's how it unfolded. I said, 'Not yet.' "
Marshall is now, though. He said his first order of business will be to fill the finance minister's portfolio, which he left to take over as premier. He said there will be a cabinet shuffle next week to do that, and possibly move other ministers around.
"I'll meet and take guidance from this great group (of ministers) that I have around me. And I think the people of Newfoundland and Labrador can take great reassurance in the fact that this is a tremendous team, and they're gonna see more of this group in the future, and they're gonna be very pleased with what they see."
Marshall conceded he'll only be in the job for a few months before the next leader is chosen by the party. He said no ministers have told him they're interested in the leadership. However, he said anyone who does declare their intention to run will have to relinquish their cabinet post.
In the meantime, Marshall said the government will continue preparing the budget and legislative agenda for the upcoming session of the house of assembly.
"We're not just a caretaker government," he said. "We were given a mandate back in 2011 and we take that very serious. We're going to govern in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."
Earlier this week, Marshall said he was sad to see Dunderdale, who succeeded Danny Williams in late 2010, leave office, especially under difficult circumstances.
"It's bittersweet," he said, adding that the public did not see Dunderdale in a full light. The former premier had been dogged by poor showings in public opinion polls, and controversies that included the defection of the former caucus chair, Paul Lane. The Mount Pearl South MHA crossed the floor to the Liberals on Monday.
"Sometimes in politics, the perception that people have, they may not see political leaders the way that those of us who work with them see them," said Marshall, adding that the strength that Dunderdale showed in government meetings may not have carried through to public appearances.
"Maybe it's the setting," he said. "We saw how strong she was, how capable she was. I have a great deal of admiration for her…She left the way she governed — with dignity and with grace."
Marshall was sworn in at Government House in St. John's.
Spending seen as top priority in budget
Meanwhile, the business community is applauding Marshall's move to the premier's chair, but wants to see action in the budget which is expected in the next couple of months.
Sharon Horan, the incoming chair of the St. John's Board of Trade, said the government, which has been projecting a deficit, needs to live within its means.
We need courage right now to get back to the core mandate of government. We have to focus on what is it that government really needs to do," Horan said.
"There has to be cost reduction," she added.
Richard Alexander, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, said Marshall has the credentials to take on the job for the coming months.
"He is known as somebody who is fiscally conservative and I think now that's what this province needs," he said.
Alexander said the next full-time premier will need to manage an economy that is dependent on a volatile oil industry.
"The big danger for us now is that we're in a bit of boom. Most booms are followed by a bust," he said.
"We need government to focus on long-term prosperity to ensure the wealth today with future generations."