Cathy Bennett out, Tom Osborne in as finance minister amid cabinet shuffle

"I'm under no illusion" that it will be easy, says Tom Osborne as he takes over Finance portfolio from Cathy Bennett.

Bennett will stay on as MHA for Windsor Lake; minister portfolios moved around

Tom Osborne will take over as minister of Finance, after Cathy Bennett stepped down. He says he knows it's a tough job, but he's ready to tackle it. (John Pike/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Cathy Bennett resigned from cabinet Monday morning, prompting a major cabinet shuffle.

I'm under no illusion that it's [not] a tough job at this particular time.- Tom Osborne

Bennett was the minister of Finance, named to the post after Dwight Ball's election as premier in December 2015.

She was also president of the Treasury Board and the minister responsible for the Status of Women, the Human Resources Secretariat, the Public Service Commission, the office of the Chief Information Officer, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation.

Osborne to take over for Bennett

Former House Speaker Tom Osborne replaces Bennett as minister of Finance. He will also be responsible for the Human Resources Secretariat and the Chief Information Officer.

Osborne was a long-time member of the Progressive Conservative party and served in cabinet with Danny Williams' government. He left the party in 2012 and sat as an independent before joining the Liberals in 2013.

Cathy Bennett announced Monday she has stepped down from cabinet, but will stay on as MHA for Windsor Lake. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"Managing government and being premier and being finance minister when there are huge royalties and revenues rolling in is easy," he said Monday of the Finance portfolio.

"Those jobs over the past couple of years have been difficult. I'm under no illusion that it's [not] a tough job at this particular time but I'm anxious to get in there."

Also announced in the shuffle is the appointment of Gerry Byrne to the Fisheries and Land Resources portfolio. Al Hawkins takes over the Advanced Education Skills and Labour post for Byrne.

Siobhan Coady will remain as Minister of Natural Resources and take over Bennett's role as minister for the Status of Women.

Trimper for Speaker?

Perry Trimper, formerly the minister responsible for Francophone Affairs, Climate Change, Government Purchasing Agency, and WorkplaceNL, has had all of his cabinet duties removed.

At the Monday afternoon announcement at Government House, Ball said, "We've got a plan for Perry."

"Perry can do a great job, in my belief, as a speaker," he said. "But of course that's a vote that would occur in the House of Assembly at some point."

Ball to retain Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs

Lisa Dempster, MHA for Cartwright–L'Anse au Clair, was named minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development, minister responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, and minister responsible for the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

This is her first time in the cabinet.

Lisa Dempster was newly appointed to cabinet in Premier Dwight Ball's cabinet shuffle announcement on July 31, 2017. (John Pike/CBC)

Though Dempster is indigenous and a resident of Labrador, Ball said he will remain the minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs.

He said that with the appointment of Dempster, and of Graham Letto to parliamentary secretary for Natural Resources and Randy Edmunds to parliamentary assistant to the premier and parliamentary secretary for Indigenous Affairs, Labrador's representation is now much stronger.

Inquiry into indigenous children in care

Premier Dwight Ball announces a cabinet shuffle at Government House in St. John's on July 31, 2017. (John Pike/CBC)

Ball also said that though his government will not deliver on the July 31 deadline to establish the terms of reference for its inquiry into the treatment of Innu children in the child protection system, discussions are progressing.

"It was an aggressive timeline that we put in place and we're working away through this right now," he said.

"We're going to get these terms of reference out so we can get this inquiry started."

The government said in a release issued Monday afternoon that it expects to complete the terms of reference this week. 

The rest of the shuffle

Other reassignments announced at the ceremony include:

  • Steve Crocker, Transportation and Works;
  • Sherry Gambin-Walsh, Service NL, minister Responsible for Workplace NL and minister Responsible for the Government Purchasing Agency;
  • Eddie Joyce, Municipal Affairs and Environment and minister Responsible for the Office of Climate Change; and
  • Christopher Mitchelmore, minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry, and Innovation and minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.

Threats and body-shaming

As minister of Finance, Bennett presided over two provincial budgets, including the controversial budget of 2016, which led to protests across the province.

Bennett said she faced what she called "unacceptable and frightening" threats and body-shaming over the course of her nearly two years as finance minister.

From left, Sherry Gambin-Walsh, Tom Osborne, Siobhan Coady and Premier Dwight Ball at a cabinet shuffle announcement at Government House in St. John's on July 31, 2017. (John Pike/CBC)

Other changes announced Monday include appointments for parliamentary secretaries and the Parliamentary Assistant to the Premier.

  • Randy Edmunds, parliamentary assistant to the premier and parliamentary secretary for Indigenous Affairs;
  • Graham Letto, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Natural Resources;
  • Derrick Bragg, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Fisheries and Land Resources;
  • Derrick Bennett, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development;
  • Carol Anne Haley, Parliamentary Secretary to the minister of Health and Community Services;
  • Colin Holloway, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment;
  • Mark Browne, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation; and
  • Bernard Davis, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Service NL.

With files from Peter Cowan and Meghan McCabe