With a provincial election in the offing, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams tapped two backbenchers Friday to fill out his cabinet.
The changes were required, in part, by Human Resources Minister Paul Shelley's announcement earlierin the daythat he would not seek re-election in October.
Williams appointed St. John's Centre MHA Shawn Skinner, a former St. John's councillor,to replace Shelley. Skinner will also handle the labour and housing portfolios that Shelley had held.
Williams also moved Tom Osborne to justice from health to fill a vacancy created with the surprise departure Dec. 29 of Loyola Sullivan, one of Williams's top lieutenants.
Because Osborne is not a lawyer, Tom Rideout— who had been acting as justice minister the past three weeks— will serve as attorney general.
Williams had moved former justice minister Tom Marshall to finance after Sullivan announced his retirement.
Ross Wiseman, the MHA for Trinity North since 2000, has been promoted to cabinet to handle the health and community services portfolio.
Set up for election: Williams
Speaking to reporters after a swearing-in ceremony at Government House, Williams said the changes setup his governing Progressive Conservatives' agenda for the general election Oct. 9.
"This'll be the election cabinet, as far as I can see," Williams said.
In a statement, Shelley— first elected in Baie Verte district in the 1993election— said he will serve the remainder of his term as an MHA.
"My family and I made the decision when I first entered public life that I would not serve continuously for longer than 15 years," Shelley said in a statement.
"I feel the time has come to keep my promise to my family and step aside from elected office," said Shelley, who many observers predicted would announce his retirement.
Williams announced some other changes involving his caucus.
Terra Nova MHA Paul Oram has been appointed as parliamentary assistant to the premier, while Conception Bay South MHA Terry French has been named parliamentary secretary to the minister of human resources, employment and housing.
Harry Harding, the MHA for Bonavista North, has been named parliamentary secretary to the minister of fisheries and aquaculture.
Late last fall, Williams asked members of his Progressive Conservative caucus to declare their intentions on running for thegeneral election scheduled for Oct. 9.
Williams announced earlier this week that byelections will be held Feb. 8 in Ferryland, Kilbride and Port au Port districts.
Sullivan had represented Ferryland for more than 14 years.
Kilbride became vacant when former natural resources minister Ed Byrne, one of five politicians named in the legislative spending scandal, quit his seat on Jan. 1.
Former Port au Port MHA Jim Hodder announced a week ago he was retiring from politics for health reasons.
On Friday, government backbencher Humber Valley MHA Kathy Goudie announced she was resigning her seat, effective immediately. Williams then called a byelection for Feb. 12.