By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has made changes to his cabinet by adding two new ministers, renaming some portfolios and changing the mandate of others.
“I am pleased to welcome two new faces to cabinet, while also reorganizing ministries to create areas of focus consistent with our priorities and our vision to move Manitoba forward,” Pallister said during a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday.
Brandon West MLA Reg Helwer has become the new minister of central services, which is to work to modernize government. Responsibilities will include procurement, information technology and shared services. He is also the minister responsible for the Civil Service Commission.
Sarah Guillemard, who represents Fort Richmond, will head the new Department of Conservation and Climate. The ministry is to focus on environmental and climate stewardship and is to implement Pallister’s made-in-Manitoba green plan.
Guillemard, who was first elected in 2016, said she plans to work with the federal government to find climate solutions. She did not say whether Manitoba would continue its carbon tax court challenge.
“I think what’s clear is that the electorate has said it’s an important issue that we have to come to solutions,” she said. “Fighting doesn’t come up with any solutions. So what we are going to look for is collaboration.”
The Progressive Conservatives secured their second-straight majority last month when they won 36 seats.
The new cabinet is up one member to 14 and includes five women. Most of the high-profile portfolios, including health, families and justice, remain under the same ministers.
The government has made progress but there is still more work to do, Pallister said, adding the changes will give a “renewed focus.”
The province’s elementary and high school systems are currently under a sweeping review. Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen will remain in charge of kindergarten to Grade 12 students, but post-secondary education and training has become the responsibility of Ralph Eichler, who is the minister of the new Department of Economic Development and Training.
Rochelle Squires is now responsible for Francophone Affairs and the Department of Municipal Relations, where she will have to navigate the sometimes rocky relationship with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and city hall. She said she’s always worked to have a good relationship with city councillors and mayors.
“I’m really excited to start working with my counterparts at the city and municipalities,” she said.
The Tories promised in 2016 to cut the size of cabinet by a third. However, this is the second time a position has been added. Pallister said the cabinet remains 30 per cent smaller than it did under the former NDP government.
“There’s always that question of what’s the appropriate size,” the premier said.
He spoke about an old oak tree he watched topple during a fierce snowstorm in Manitoba on the Thanksgiving weekend that left tens of thousands without power.
The tree was unbalanced just like the government was before the Tories came to power, Pallister said.