Stephen McNeil shuffles cabinet, but vows not to change course
Keith Colwell is the only minister to keep his old position without gaining any new responsibilities
Premier Stephen McNeil has decided a near clean sweep is in order to start his second mandate.
He shuffled just about every cabinet job in government Thursday, handing key portfolios to Karen Casey, Zach Churchill and Randy Delorey.
Casey takes over at Finance and will be deputy premier, Delorey moves from Finance to Health, and Churchill takes over where Casey left off at Education.
Other important jobs were handed to Kelly Regan, who leaves Labour and Advanced Education to head up Community Services, and former RCMP officer Mark Furey, who becomes minister of Justice.
McNeil is also bringing fresh blood into his cabinet by naming Patricia Arab as minister of Internal Services, Iain Rankin as minister of Environment and former Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillor Derek Mombourquette as minister of Municipal Affairs.
'Now is not the time to change course'
At a ceremony attended by hundreds of Liberal Party supporters, family and friends, the premier praised his caucus colleagues for agreeing to take on new responsibilities.
"Each member represents our geography, our diversity and our love of this province," he said in a prepared speech following the official swearing-in ceremony.
"And I have so much confidence in you and the members of our caucus that we continue to work with hardworking Nova Scotians to make this province all it can be."
He also echoed a well-worn election campaign theme — which may be intended as a signal despite the change in ministers — that his government intends to maintain the direction set during its first mandate.
"Now is not the time to change course."
Health and education
Delorey, the newly appointed health minister, suggested changes were in order in his department, given the furore raised in some communities over a longstanding lack of medical resources.
"We have heard loud and clear about the need to do better in the area of primary care in particular, the area of mental health, and those are areas that we're certainly committed to working on," he said.
Churchill, the new education minister, talked about the need to do "repair work" when it comes to the relationship between the governing Liberals and teachers.
"They need to know that government cares about what their concerns are and that we're going to keep moving on them," he said. "And I think at the end of the day if we can all work together we're going to have a better system."
Have to say no sometimes
But Churchill made no pledge to change or withdraw the contract the governing Liberals imposed on teachers this past winter.
"Listen, we had tough labour negotiations, there's no question about that," he said. "That was for good reason in my opinion. Because we have to, as a government, say no sometimes and that leads to tensions but its been for a greater good."
McNeil has made Furey his government's minister of Labour Relations, a new department in charge of reaching collective agreements with public-sector workers. Thousands of civil servants, nurses and other health staff are without a contract and resent legislation passed, but not enacted, that could impose a contract on them.
Furey acknowledged that here too there's a need to re-establish a relationship with labour leaders.
"There's a need to rebuild relationships," he told reporters. "There's a need to be honest and frank and respectful."