What was anticipated to be a routine cabinet shuffle Wednesday turned into something more like a full-fledged square dance.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale not only moved several ministers around, but added two new faces to the ranks and removed two old ones.
The changes come after former finance minister Jerome Kennedy announced his resignation last week. Kennedy made his decision to quit politics over the summer.
To replace Kennedy, longtime cabinet minister Tom Marshall returns to his old post. Marshall also retains his role as attorney general, while Darin King holds onto the Justice portfolio.
The two new faces are Steve Kent and Dan Crummell, both MHAs in the St. John’s-Mount Pearl area. Leaving are Placentia MHA Felix Collins and Harbour Main representative Tom Hedderson. That leaves the capital city region heavily represented in senior posts.
Collins’ departure is not a surprise. He has not fared well in his various portfolios, especially in his awkward handling as justice minister of Bill 29 in June 2012. He was ill-prepared to handle the outcry, stumbling over reporters’ questions and appearing ill-informed in the legislature. His handling of an investigation into psychiatric services at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary was also less than stellar.
Kent, meanwhile, must feel like he’s won the jackpot.
The former youth activist and Mount Pearl mayor has been a stalwart voice for the PC party since he was first elected in 2007 — ironic, since he first flirted with provincial politics under the Liberal banner.
He has since been one of the main voices on Twitter for the Dunderdale administration, frequently gushing about the premier and party policy.
His appointment to Municipal Affairs is no accident, given his previous involvement with Mount Pearl council and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador.
Crummell, meanwhile, takes over Services NL, and Paul Davis moves to Child, Youth and Family Services.
Kevin O’Brien leaves the municipal post to take on Advanced Education and Skills, replacing Joan Shea, who moves to Environment.
Only four ministers remain in place; as well as King, they are Susan Sullivan (Health), Terry French (Tourism) and Clyde Jackman (Education).
It’s a bold new table setting for a premier who has plummeted in the polls over the last year. Dunderdale clearly hopes to shake things up a bit, particularly by giving two new members a chance to infuse new blood.
But with a caucus that unanimously proclaimed its devotion to the status quo last month, it’s not clear how any reorganization is going to make a big difference.
Kennedy has left, Tom Marshall won’t run again in 2015, and there’s every reason to believe other senior caucus members are thinking about hitting the showers.
The whole thing may boil down to how well Kent and Crummell handle their portfolios.
That will be interesting to watch.