Nova Scotia's new premier, cabinet sworn in at a ceremony in Halifax
Michelle Thompson named health minister; Allan MacMaster made deputy premier, finance minister
Nova Scotia's 30th premier and 18 cabinet ministers were sworn in Tuesday afternoon at a ceremony at the Halifax Convention Centre.
"We now promise to hold ourselves to the highest standards and work hard to make not only our parents, but all Nova Scotians proud of the work that we will do on your behalf," Premier Tim Houston said during a speech to close the ceremony.
Houston will serve as minister of trade, intergovernmental affairs, and have responsibility for the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness.
Veteran Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster will be the deputy premier, and will also have responsibility for Finance and Treasury Board, Gaelic Affairs and Labour Relations.
Former nurse becomes new health minister
The PCs ran on a platform of improving the provincial health-care system, and Houston is turning to three people to help him do that.
Political rookie Michelle Thompson will lead the charge as the minister of health and wellness. Thompson was a nurse for 29 years, and prior to the election served as CEO of RK MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish. She told reporters her professional experience has her coming into her new role with eyes wide open.
"As a person who was at the bedside for a long time, I feel that health care has deteriorated over the last number of years and so my personal commitment is to do my very best to improve things on a daily basis."
During the election, the Tories drew attention to the waitlist of about 71,000 people searching for a family doctor. Thompson will oversee efforts to attract doctors and other health-care workers to the province through the newly created Office of Health Care Professionals Recruitment.
Brian Comer will be working closely with Thompson as minister responsible for the Office of Mental Health and Addictions, as well as Barb Adams, who becomes minister of the newly created Seniors and Long-Term Care Department.
Adams said the three of them would look at the priorities of their respective portfolios and make sure they're all working well together.
As to mandatory vaccines for workers in long-term care homes, Adams said that would be a conversation between members of cabinet and Public Health.
"The primary goal is to keep everyone as safe as possible," she told reporters.
"And so we're going to have to meet with [Chief Medical Officer] Dr. [Robert] Strang and talk about how many people are vaccinated."
While health care has been the dominant issue for the Tories, housing has emerged as the second-biggest file facing the new government.
Houston has been open about his dislike of rent control as a long-term option, but he's also acknowledged that many people fear what could happen to their rental situation when the provincial state of emergency is eventually lifted.A two per cent cap on rent increases is currently tied to that state of emergency.
John Lohr, Houston's one-time leadership rival, will be charged with finding short- and long-term solutions as the minister for municipal affairs and housing.
The MLA for Kings North said he knows housing is an issue across the province. Lohr estimated 30 to 50 per cent of the files he's handled at the constituency level have related to housing.
"We want to address these issues," he told reporters.
"I realize we're going into winter, so it's a big concern for us … We certainly, as a government, recognize the urgency to get working on it."
Other cabinet ministers sworn in Tuesday include:
- Karla MacFarlane: Community Services; Status of Women; Office of L'nu Affairs
- Jill Balser: Labour Skills and Immigration; Apprenticeship
- Brian Wong: Advanced Education
- Pat Dunn: Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage; African Nova Scotian Affairs; Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives; Voluntary Sector
- Susan Corkum-Greek: Economic Development
- Greg Morrow: Agriculture
- Steve Craig: Fisheries and Aquaculture
- Brad Johns: Minister of Justice and Attorney General; Elections Nova Scotia, Human Rights Commission and Accessibility Act
- Kim Masland: Public Works (formerly Transportation and Active Transit)
- Tory Rushton: Natural Resources and Renewables (combines former Lands and Forestry, Energy and Mines)
- Tim Halman: Environment and Climate Change, also chair of Treasury Board
- Colton LeBlanc: Public Service Commission, Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services, Acadian Affairs and Francophonie
- Becky Druhan: Education and Early Childhood Development
Druhan, a lawyer by training and another political newcomer who's been named to cabinet, said a key issue for her will be working on relationships, including with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and other stakeholders. She'll also be looking at getting more local power and decision making back into the school system.
"It does include looking at school boards," she told reporters.
With cabinet now in place, ministers and the premier will begin intensive briefings as they get up to speed on their responsibilities and attempt to put their campaign platform into action. Houston told reporters he plans to recall the legislature in mid-October.