Premier Kathy Dunderdale said she believes it’s always good to change things up, and so she made a whole lot of changes to her cabinet Wednesday morning.
Two-thirds of her ministers are getting settled into new jobs today following the shuffle, and there are two fresh faces in the mix — backbenchers Steve Kent and Dan Crummell got invited into the inner circle.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks with reporters following a cabinet shuffle Wednesday morning. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Two old hands were put out to pasture as well. Felix Collins said he’ll be focusing on constituency issues for the next two years, and he doesn’t plan on running again in the 2015 general election.
Tory stalwart Tom Hedderson is no longer in cabinet either, but he was appointed parliamentary secretary to the premier. Dunderdale said he’ll be acting as a trusted lieutenant for her in the premier’s office.
This week’s shuffle comes almost exactly halfway through the government’s four-year mandate, and it is the biggest change to the cabinet since Dunderdale appointed new ministers after the 2011 general election. She said switching things up is good.
“I really like moving ministers around in portfolios because it broadens and deepens their knowledge,” Dunderdale said. “We work very much as a team at the cabinet table and the caucus table, but when you’re in a department, you really have to drill down many, many levels and really deepen your knowledge around your responsibilities.”
The most significant move was putting Tom Marshall back in charge of the Department of Finance, a job he’s frequently held over the years. Derrick Dalley was the other big move; he was promoted to run the Department of Natural Resources, one of the most important areas for this government.
The Tories have been battered by dismal poll numbers in recent months. According to one poll, Dunderdale is the most unpopular premier in the country, and the Progressive Conservatives are currently polling in third place behind both the Liberals and the NDP.
Dunderdale told reporters that she’s hoping to “reset” things for her government with the shuffle, and she welcomed the “energy and vitality” that comes from having two new people at the cabinet table.
Kent told reporters he’s very happy to have been appointed as minister of Municipal Affairs.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that Premier Dunderdale has invited me to join this cabinet team,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for our province and we’ve done a lot of great work in the last number of years to support communities large and small.”
Opposition politicians were underwhelmed.
Liberal MHA Dwight Ball said with mostly the same old ministers in different jobs, the government isn’t going to be able to put a fresh face forward.
“She’s had to reach back for the third time to ask Tom Marshall to become finance minister. This is a man that’s said that he wants to resign, that he’s ready to go into retire and leave,” Bal said. “It’s the same faces, just in different portfolios right now, so I don’t see anything here that could really change the direction of government.”
New Democrat MHA George Murphy said he’s just dismayed that government issues will grind to a crawl while the new ministers get up to speed.
“They probably could have waited until they had some of these major issues solved, but we’re still looking at a need for municipal funding formulas, roads is a big issues, we’re still looking at that ferry replacement strategy as being a failure,” he said. “There’s some critical areas that should have been addressed before some of these people were shuffled, as far as I’m concerned. Wrong time to do it.”