Nfld. & Labrador

What's making this new cabinet minister tick? Keeping things out of landfills, as a start

Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Graham Letto says he's excited about his new role, but it hasn't quite sunk in yet.

Labrador West MHA Graham Letto was promoted to cabinet in Thursday's shuffle

Labrador West MHA Graham Letto says he brings years of municipal experience to his new cabinet portfolio. (Gary Locke/CBC)

There wasn't much time to absorb his new role as a provincial cabinet minister before it became official, and Labrador West MHA Graham Letto said it still seems surreal the next day.

"I don't think it's sunk in yet, but I'm getting there," Letto, the new municipal affairs and environment minister, told Labrador Morning on Friday.

Letto was sworn in Thursday afternoon, just a couple of hours after he learned he would receive the role as part of Premier Dwight Ball's cabinet shuffle to replace Dale Kirby and Eddie Joyce, who were booted from cabinet and caucus amid allegations of harassment and bullying.

"It happened pretty quickly but that's the way these things happen," he said.

The portfolio is a good fit for his experience, Letto said.

He first became a Labrador City councillor in 1989, he said, spending 20 years on the town council and eight years as the community's mayor. He was also the president of Municipalities N.L., and served five years as the president of the Combined Council of Labrador.

Letto said he thinks Ball gave him the portfolio because of that municipal experience.

"I like to think that he's calling on that experience to help us through this term and into the next term, hopefully," Letto said.

Infrastructure decisions to make

A variety of things are on his to-do list as minister, he said. 

The province has signed an agreement with the federal government that will bring in $500 million over the next 10 years for infrastructure, an investment that goes to $1 billion when the provincial and municipal contributions are added.

"There's lots of work to be done there and I would think that's where municipalities around the province would want me to concentrate on," Letto said.

Part of that work includes making decisions on the projects to approve, though he said he's confident that can be done effectively.

"This is significant, the biggest infrastructure investment we've ever seen in the municipal world [in Newfoundland and Labrador], so that's going to be a task that's pretty onerous, but I know with the staff that I have at Municipal Affairs we'll be able to get through this pretty easily," Letto said.

The portfolio also includes the province's Multi-Materials Stewardship Board, and Letto said he thinks the board is working to increase recycling in Labrador.

"Recycling and waste management is something that we have to do everywhere in the province," he said, acknowledging Labrador is among the regions of the province that are further behind in this area.

"We have a lot of work to do in waste management and recycling, and that's something that will be a focus of the board going forward."

Labrador representation

With he and Lisa Dempster — Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair MHA and children, seniors and social development minister — in cabinet, Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper as the speaker, and Torngat Mountains MHA Randy Edmunds as parliamentary assistant to Ball, Labrador currently has good representation in the provincial government, Letto said.

"I'm here for all the municipalities in this province but nevertheless, our hearts are in Labrador, there's no question about that," he said.

Despite a busy portfolio, Letto said he is confident he can still serve the constituents of Labrador West effectively as their MHA as well as the province as a cabinet minister.

"My commitment is to the people of Labrador West and the people who elected me, and the people that I've been elected to serve, and that will not change at all."

With files from Labrador Morning

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.