Cabinet shuffle adds 2 new faces and moves all but 2 members
Cathy Rogers becomes province's 1st female finance minister while Brian Kenny moves to education
Premier Brian Gallant has unveiled a slightly larger and fully overhauled cabinet that gives anglophone MLAs more prominent roles in the Liberal government.
At the same time, two high-profile positions that had been held by francophones now go to anglophones.
Cathy Rogers, the MLA from Moncton South, replaces Roger Melanson at finance. She becomes the first female finance minister in the province's history. Melanson takes the newly created position of president of the treasury board, a cabinet committee which will oversee government spending.
Serge Rouselle moved from education
Rousselle, the only lawyer in the caucus other than Gallant, remains attorney-general and also becomes minister of environment and local government.
The changes, near the midway point of Gallant's mandate, give anglophone Liberal MLAs more visibility at a time when language tensions have been rising. Some Progressive Conservative leadership candidates have called for changes to how bilingualism is applied.
Gallant said the shift was "not at all" a response to that. He said it reflected that most of the experienced MLAs he drew on for cabinet in 2014 happened to be francophone.
Now that Ames and Harris have had a chance to "get their feet under them," they can step up, he said.
He also said Rousselle's move from education to environment and local governing is not a demotion, pointing to coming initiatives on climate change and municipal reform.
"We have a lot to do in environment and local government," he said.
Celtic affairs minister created
Harris also becomes the minister responsible for Celtic Affairs, a new position.
Gallant said it will allow "a coordinated approach" to funding Irish, Scottish and Welsh festivals. But Green Party Leader David Coon said the position isn't needed and is designed to pander to New Brunswickers who've been incensed about bilingualism and duality.
The shuffle also shores up ridings the Liberals won in 2014 outside their traditional strongholds, such as Ames's Charlotte-Campobello and Rogers's Moncton South. The Liberals must keep such ridings in 2018 to retain or expand their three-seat majority in the legislature.
Horsman out of justice, public safety
That job includes many of the programs, such as social assistance and housing, that had been part of the department of social development, and Gallant said Horsman "is one of the best people we have" to take on those duties.
The PC opposition has called on Gallant to drop Horsman from cabinet altogether for saying in the legislature he had received phone calls from judges about the controversial Bill 21.
Veteran MLA Denis Landry takes over justice and public safety.
Cabinet grows in size
Putting Rogers in finance also lets Gallant show he is serious about giving more women key roles. With Harris joining cabinet as well, three of the four female Liberal MLAs are in cabinet.
Gallant said the budget is the single most important decision a government makes and it will help to have "a female perspective."
The total size of the cabinet, including Gallant, increases from 13 to 14.
The shuffle is a major one, with only two ministers besides Gallant keeping their main responsibilities: Victor Boudreau remains health minister and Saint John's Ed Doherty is still the minister responsible for Service New Brunswick and the minister for aboriginal affairs.
PC Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch said a shuffle that mostly moves the same people into new positions is a missed opportunity for Gallant "to reset and refocus" a troubled government.
"You're going to see the same philosophy, the same decisions," he said.
Other cabinet moves:
- Rick Doucet remains the minister of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, but also becomes minister of energy and resource development, a newly merged department that takes in the old natural resources and energy and mines departments. He will also be government house leader, overseeing the Liberal agenda in the legislature.
- Donald Arseneault becomes minister of post-secondary education, training and labour. He also will be responsible for the Regional Development Corporation.
- Francine Landry moves from that department to take over economic development, including responsibility for Opportunities New Brunswick. She remains minister for La Francophonie.
- Tourism Minister Bill Fraser becomes minister of transportation and infrastructure, while keeping responsibility for the Northern Fund and the Miramichi Fund.
- Hédard Albert, who had been government house leader, is the only departure from the Liberal cabinet. Albert announced last week he won't run for re-election in 2018.