Cathy Bennett strode confidently into the House of Assembly Monday afternoon to take her seat as the new MHA for Virginia Waters.
The seat was at the back of the growing Liberal presence in the House, but the newest MHA will be no small player, having already been appointed as the Opposition's finance critic.
Recently elected Virginia Waters MHA Cathy Bennett was sworn in by Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan at Government House Monday morning, just a few hours before she was to take her seat in the provincial legislature as it resumed its spring session after the Easter break. Bennett signs her oath of office papers as Fagan looks on. In the April 9 byelection, Bennett was victorious, with 1,932 votes to PC candidate Danny Breen’s 1,892 votes and NDP candidate Sheilagh O’Leary’s 1,021 votes. The byelection was held to fill the seat once occupied by former premier Kathy Dunderdale, who retired from politics in February. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
She takes over the portfolio from Liberal Leader Dwight Ball, who will remain the critic for natural resources.
"Cathy is a great asset our caucus, and her extensive background in business will serve well in her new role as the Opposition critic for the Department of Finance," Ball said in a statement.
Her first day in the legislature came on the same day she was sworn in. The ceremony was held in the morning at Government House in St. John's, completed under the direction of Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan.
With the addition of Bennett, the Liberals hold 12 of 48 seats in the House of Assembly.
That number is up from just eight seats when Sam Slade was sworn in as the MHA for Carbonear-Harbour Grace in December 2013.
Slade filled the seat previously held by Progressive Conservative Jerome Kennedy. Slade's addition was followed by a series of high-profile defections and, ultimately, additions to the Liberal ranks, in MHAs Paul Lane, Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore.
Bennett has now taken up the reins in the riding once held by former Progressive Conservative premier Kathy Dunderdale.
"I'm certainly very honoured and humbled to be here today. The people of Virginia Waters have entrusted me to do a job and I intend to work very hard to earn their continued trust and confidence and represent their concerns in the House of Assembly," Bennett said following the swearing-in ceremony.
As for her new role as critic, she did not pull any punches on the first day when asked about the provincial economy and her priorities.
"Certainly there's no doubt that there's opportunity, but that opportunity isn't spreading across all areas of the province," she said.
"We have issues with education, we have issues with health care and I think we need to ask some tough questions about how the money is being managed."