Ghiz shuffles cabinet

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz announces a major cabinet shuffle, bringing in two new faces while assigning new duties to other ministers.

Premier Robert Ghiz shuffled his cabinet Wednesday, about halfway through his mandate, bringing in two new faces while giving other ministers additional duties.

Veteran legislature members Valerie Docherty and Gerard Greenan are out, while Robert Vessey and Janice Sherry are in.

The changes weren't personal, Ghiz said.

"Having new eyes and new ideas move into departments is very important, but also giving other members of the caucus an opportunity," he said. "I've said all along I've got 23 colleagues, they're all very capable, and it's important every once in a while to offer new opportunities to those members.

"It doesn't come down to who's performing and who's not …it has to do with different portfolios and regions of the province."

Vessey, the MLA for York-Oyster Bed, who has long sought a cabinet post, replaces Docherty as tourism minister. The premier also announced Tourism P.E.I.  has taken over responsibility for the Liquor Control Commission.

"My background, as you know, is as a potato farmer for the last 29 years," Vessey said. "But it's something I'm looking forward to.

"Tourism has a lot of potential here in Prince Edward Island and I want to talk to the members to see what direction they should go forward with, and sit down and think about it and put a plan in place to make tourism a bigger player in Prince Edward Island."

Summerside MLA Janice Sherry becomes minister of community services, seniors and labour, replacing Carolyn Bertram who takes over the newly named Department of Health and Wellness. Sherry will also be the voice for Summerside at the cabinet table.

"I'm a hard worker … and I'm looking forward to putting my people skills and energy and knowledge to work for the people of P.E.I.," she said.

Bertram said she is ready to tackle the Health Department, which has the largest budget and the toughest problems.

"The premier makes the decisions at the end of the day for cabinet … and I'm very honoured that he's chosen me for this position," she said.

The former health minister, Doug Currie, moves into Greenan's former position as minister of education and early childhood development. Currie was principal of a Charlottetown junior high school before being elected.

"We know there are lots of issues … we're transitioning to public kindergarten and we have the rezoning issue in front of us … so it should be an interesting time," he said.

Treasurer Wes Sheriden was given the additional responsibility of municipal affairs. 

Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley, who already has the largest highways budget in history, adds infrastructure renewal to his duties. The portfolio involves large, cost-shared projects with Ottawa and municipalities.

George Webster has been named to the newly created position of deputy premier and will continue to run the Agriculture Department.   

Richard Brown, Allan Campbell and Neil LeClair keep their existing cabinet positions.

"This is more of a shuffle today," Ghiz said. "I'm not ruling out that there will be more tweaking or shuffling before the next general elections."