Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister Makes Some Changes to his Cabinet

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has announced his new cabinet to start 2021.

Eight members of cabinet are maintaining their current files:

• Ron Schuler – minister of infrastructure;
• Blaine Pedersen – minister of agriculture and resource development;
• Eileen Clarke – minister of Indigenous and northern relations;
• Cathy Cox – minister of sports, culture and heritage;
• Scott Fielding – minister of finance;
• Jeff Wharton – minister of Crown services;
• Reg Helwer – minister of central services; and
• Sarah Guillemard – minister of conservation and climate.

One notable change in cabinet was Heather Stefanson replacing Cameron Friesen as Minister of Health and Seniors Care, while Friesen has been named Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

Pallister was asked if moving Friesen to another portfolio was considered a demotion for his handling of the COVID-19 response. In essence, he said no. “Cameron Friesen took on the job without knowing COVID was on the horizon, and I don’t think there’s a person in this province who would have wanted the job he undertook to do as a leader in our health department over the last number of months; he’s worked diligently and has worked very, very hard on that file,” Pallister said. “And I know that Heather Stefanson will take on all of those challenges and she’ll address them well as she has in every assignment I’ve given her.”

Other changes included Cliff Cullen replacing Kelvin Goertzen as Minister of Education, while Goertzen becomes Deputy Premier and Minister of Legislative and Public Affairs and retains his role as government house leader.

Ralph Eichler becomes Minister of Economic Development and Jobs; and Rochelle Squires becomes Minister of Families as well as Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs.

There are 3 first time ministers entering cabinet: Wayne Ewasko is Minister for Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration; Derek Johnson is Minister of Municipal Relations; and Audrey Gordon is the first-ever Minister for the newly created department of Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery.

“In terms of the mental health programs that we now offer, and the relative need for them, I don’t know if you can think of a time of when it would be more important than now to really focus on making sure we’re expanding the quality and capability of the services that we’re to people who are vulnerable.” Pallister said of the new department and the importance of mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some history was made in the process of appointing Gordon, as she becomes the first Black person to be appointed to cabinet in Manitoba’s history, but Pallister made it clear she wasn’t appointed because of race, but rather merit.

Pallister says Gordon has experience as a health professional, with a specific interest in addictions, making her “the ideal person to lead this challenge.”

More from GX94 Radio