Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter shuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, appointing Maureen MacDonald as the province's first female Finance Minister.
MacDonald takes over for Graham Steele, who announced earlier on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election after an 11-year career in politics.
Bill Estabrooks also announced that he will not be running again, and his former job as Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister will be filled by NDP backbencher Maurice Smith, the MLA for Antigonish.
Dave Wilson — the MLA for Sackville-Cobequid — will become the Minister of Health and Wellness, and Leonard Preyra — the MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island — enters cabinet for the first time in Wilson's former job as Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
Here's what Nova Scotia's cabinet looks like now:
- Darrell Dexter — Premier.
- Sterling Belliveau — Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Minister of Environment.
- Frank Corbett — Deputy premier.
- Ramona Jennex — Minister of Education.
- Ross Landry — Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
- Maureen MacDonald — Minister of Finance, Minister of Gaelic Affairs.
- John MacDonell — Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.
- Marilyn More — Minister of Labour and Advanced Education, Minister of Immigration.
- Percy Paris — Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs.
- Charlie Parker — Minister of Natural Resources, Minister of Energy.
- Denise Peterson-Rafuse — Minister of Community Services, Minister of Seniors.
- Leonard Preyra — Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage.
- Maurice Smith — Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
- David Wilson — Minister of Health and Wellness.
The last time Dexter made any significant changes to his cabinet was in January 2011.
Experienced cabinet members not reoffering
Steele and Estabrooks — who both announced Wednesday they will not be reoffering — were two of the province's most experienced cabinet ministers.
Steele was first elected to the provincial legislature in a 2001 byelection in the riding of Halifax-Fairview. He was sworn in as finance minister when Nova Scotia elected its first NDP government in June 2009.
Before entering public life, Steele was a practising lawyer.
"At this point in my life and my career, it's time to move on and do something else. When the next election rolls around I will have been in politics as a staffer or an elected person for 15 years and for me personally, that's enough. I just feel it's time to move on," he told reporters after the cabinet shuffle.
"I feel the need in the time between now and the next election to reconnect with my family and my health and my constituency."
Steele stressed that although he is no longer a cabinet member, he will remain the MLA for Halifax Fairview until the next election.
"It's the same team, just configured differently. I'm very proud to be followed by somebody of the calibre of Maureen MacDonald," he said.
"I am confident that the budget that's presented next spring will be balanced. This has never been a personal financial plan of my own. This has been the government's plan, of which I am the face and the voice — but the plan continues."
'Parkinson's is grinding away at me'
Estabrooks told reporters his battle with Parkinson's disease — which he revealed publicly in September 2010 — was the main reason he had decided not to run again.
"I have 500 clean, polished election signs in my basement and if my health was ready, I would go again in a minute. But I just can't go," he said.
"Parkinson's is grinding away at me."
Estabrooks was first elected to the provincial legislature as MLA for Timberlea-Prospect in 1998 and was re-elected in 1999, 2003, 2006 and again in 2009.
Before his election, he was a school teacher and taught at various schools including Sir John A. Macdonald High School in Tantallon, Sackville High School in Lower Sackville and Brookside Junior High School in Prospect.
Estabrooks said he had previously spoken to the premier about stepping away from his cabinet responsibilities and said Dexter had been supportive of his plans.
"It's tough. I'll miss it," Estabrooks told reporters, his voice breaking.