Paul Davis taps Steve Kent as deputy premier

Premier Paul Davis has appointed Steve Kent, whose support at the recent PC leadership convention secured his win, as deputy premier and minister of health.
Premier Paul Davis speaks at Government House after members of his cabinet were sworn in. (CBC)

Premier Paul Davis has appointed Steve Kent, whose support at the recent PC leadership convention helped assure his win, as deputy premier and minister of health. 

Kent threw his support behind Davis just moments after the first ballot at the Sept. 13 convention, which Davis won by a narrow margin over John Ottenheimer. 

Davis relied largely on experience for his cabinet, but made a bold move by appointing a cabinet minister who is not an MHA. Judy Manning, a lawyer, takes on multiple roles, including public safety, attorney-general and status of women. The public safety portfolio folds the justice department with the Fire and Emergency Services division. 

At Government House on Tuesday, Davis also reorganized several department and introduced a new one, with Clyde Jackman serving as the first minister of seniors, wellness and social development. 

From the backbench, Davis appointed Keith Russell — the Lake Melville MHA who has made controversial remarks over the years — as minister responsible for Labrador and aboriginal affairs. 

Two years ago, Russell — who is aboriginal himself — criticized some opponents of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project as spewing "mumbo jumbo" about their spiritual beliefs and the value of the land used for the megaproject. 

Russell becomes Labrador's voice in cabinet, replacing Nick McGrath, who resigned under fire on Monday just after the release of Auditor-General Terry Paddon's report that found McGrath arranged for the cancellation of a Humber Valley Paving contract. McGrath made the move without telling then-premier Tom Marshall about the arrangement, which came at the behest of Humber Valley Paving and occurred just before owner Frank Coleman announced his bid for the PC leadership. 

Coleman folded his political ambitions in June, triggering another leadership round that saw the ascension of Davis, a retired Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer who was first elected to the House of Assembly in 2010. 

Most returned to cabinet room

The remaining cabinet appointments include: 

  • David Brazil, who moves to transportation and works from Service NL; 
  • Sandy Collins, who stays in child, youth and family services; 
  • Tony Cornect, who takes on Service NL and will be responsible for several agencies, including the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission. He had been tourism minister; 
  • Dan Crummell, who moves to environment from municipal affairs;
  • Derrick Dalley, who stays in natural resources; 
  • Vaughn Granter, who moves to fisheries from environment; 
  • Darin King, who takes on the revamped Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development. He had been the minister of education and was covering the justice portfolio upon the resignation of Terry French; 
  • Kevin O'Brien, who stays in advanced education and skills; 
  • Susan Sullivan, who takes on the revamped Department of Education and Early Childhood Department. She had been responsible for the innovation and status of women portfolios;
  • Ross Wiseman, who stays in finance.