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So, what would you read into this latest set of provincial cabinet tea leaves? Wednesday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale flipped two ministers around, moving Tom Marshall from Finance to Natural Resources, and moving Jerome Kennedy in the opposite direction.

It’s a swap of the long titles: Kennedy becomes “Minister of Finance, President of Treasury Board, Minister Responsible for the Human Resource Secretariat, Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission, and Minister Responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor

Corporation,” while Marshall is now, to quote the news release, “Minister of Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency, in addition to his continued responsibilities as Attorney General.”

Maybe Premier Dunderdale feels she needs the pugnacious Kennedy in the Finance Department to defend the upcoming reputedly tough budget — it can’t be to plan the thing, because much of the budgetary work is already complete. It may be her plan to have a nastier frontman to deal with the upcoming public battle between the provincial government and its contract-less unions.

Kennedy had a big presence in the Muskrat Falls debate, and it may be that Dunderdale wants to bring that style to another tough and public portfolio. It’s a role he’s had before Natural Resources as well, with a couple of years in the sprawling and sometimes acrimonious Department of Health. If there is a point man for a punch-up in the current cabinet, Kennedy is most likely it.

It seems unlikely that the move is to put a kinder, gentler face on issues in Natural Resources — after all, Muskrat Falls has already been sanctioned, all of the nasty and unpalatable legislation needed to prop up its particular financial case study has been shoved through the House of Assembly, and the biggest issues for Natural Resources now are likely to be rearguard actions, like justifying the almost-guaranteed cost overruns on projects that have already been launched.

All in all, it’s a strange little shuffle, especially as it involves, in Marshall’s case, a politician who has already said he doesn’t intend to run in the next election. Natural Resources certainly isn’t the frying-pan of a department threatening cutbacks, but it’s not really a quiet pasture for a retiring warhorse, either. If that was what the change was supposed to offer, Marshall would be setting up new digs in Tourism or somewhere like that.

Let’s hope that Marshall’s new position, with its stewardship of Muskrat Falls, doesn’t see the same massive increase in spending that marked the last six years or so of the provincial government’s record.

And let’s hope Kennedy gets along better with the union file than he did in his public scraps with anyone opposed to the Muskrat Falls project.

Marshall often seems the real diplomat in the Dunderdale government.

It’s fair to say, then, that the financial gloves are coming off.

Organizations: Treasury Board, Human Resource Secretariat, Public Service Commission Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Forestry and Agrifoods Agency Department of Health

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Tourism

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Recent comments

  • OTL
    January 17, 2013 - 11:32

    I hope people aren't naive enough to believe that ministers negotiate anything. The ministers do whatever the bureaucrats tell them to do.

  • Herb Morrison
    January 17, 2013 - 10:52

    When you consider the facts that Mr. Marshall is not planning to run in the next election, and the fact that Mr. Marshall appears to perser a laid back approach, replacing Mr. Marshall with Mr. Kennedy, who has a well-earned reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator, in the finance portfolio, makes good sense. Astute move by the Premier and good for the taxpayers who will not be saddled with paying unionized workers more than they are worth

    • Rob Thomas
      January 17, 2013 - 11:42

      Who decides someone's "worth"? The province already pays some of the lowest salaries in the country so why worry about that changing. But if you're going to base your spending on people's worth then it wouldn't be good to be a pensioner or a social assistance recipient.

    • david
      January 17, 2013 - 12:41

      Rob Thomas: When an employer and an individual emplyee agree to a working contract/agreement, they have both explicity decided the exact value of the work. As far as paying the "lowest salaries in the country", notwithstanding that you pulled that completely that "factoid" out of your arse, I am very confident that, on a productivity / skil / value-received-for-money-spent, public service wages In Newfoundland would be shown to be FAR higher than warranted.

    • a business man
      January 20, 2013 - 09:06

      ROB THOMAS asked "decides someone's "worth""? Well, in my companies, I decide what people are worth. My formula is quite simple. If one does not have a post secondary education, then that person earns minimum wage for life. No wage increases, no health benefits or pension benefits, not paid vacation. That is how I compensate unskilled uneducated workers, and that is how I beleive they should be compensated nationwide. WHY? because they are not worth any more, because their lack of skills and education leaves them with little negotiating power, and because if they leave, they can be replaced with minimal effort. If one has a post secondary education, and is skilled and educated, I am happy to pay them a middle class wage (in the 70K range) and provide health and pension benefits, and other job perks. These people are worth more than the first group, because they bring their education into my company. So, I have my views, and some may disagree, but I will vote for those who share my view.

  • BAckroom Politics
    January 17, 2013 - 10:29

    Dunderdale is hanging Kennedy out to dry..............he's the next logical (and unfortunately best person to be Premier) so Dunderdale gets him into a fight woith the publci service to take his stock down so he won't be next Premier.

  • W Bagg
    January 17, 2013 - 10:26

    Does kennedy have grade 6?

    • Mike from Carbonear
      January 17, 2013 - 16:28

      Actually, he graduated high school early and is rumored to have an exceptional intelligence quotient score. Grade six is what Eddy Joyce and Premier Dunderdale have if you believe the blogosphere.

  • Eli
    January 17, 2013 - 09:20

    Kennedy wasn't really pugnacious in the Muskrat Falls disgrace. He didn't need to be. He had legislation in place to do whatever the hell this disgraceful excuse for a government wanted down that road. As for the switch in ministers, first thing that came to my mind was it's another diversion to stop us from talking about Nalcor and Muskrat. Damn the lot of 'em, and that included my MHA.

  • Broken Promise
    January 17, 2013 - 08:50

    If there was a plan to announce a new hospital for Corner Brook in the budget, Marshall would have stayed at finance. This appears unlikely now.

  • Too Funny
    January 17, 2013 - 08:43

    "a strange little shuffle". Not really. Especially when you consider that the Forestry and Agriculture agency is the only government office that is not headquartered in St. John's. It just happens to be headquartered in Marshall's hometown of Corner Brook. Seems like he'd prefer a pasture closer to home.

  • Cold Future
    January 17, 2013 - 06:52

    Let's hope it is to try to figure out how the average increase in taxation of $450,000,000 per year created to pay for Muskrat will be handled by the ratepayers of the province. That tax grab will kick in in 4 to 8 years when the project in complete.The government of the day will have to be very creative to protect the fixed income folks from the hardships to come. The additional cost of this burden is about $2000 per year per ratepayer-not an insignificant sum.