Since the cabinet shuffle of Jan. 5, MLA for Spruce Woods Cliff Cullen became the minister of education. In their newsletter, the Manitoba Association of School Boards acknowledged the work of the forment minister, and welcomed a new health minister. and Manitoba’s former education minister, Kelvin Goertzen, has taken on the role of deputy premier.
Town and rural municipal councils also have a new minister of municipal affairs to help them out. Derek Johnson, MLA for Interlake–Gimli, enters cabinet as minister for municipal relations.
Several new departments have been set in order, new appointments made, and eight portfolios remain unchanged including the minister of infrastructure, so important to grass roots politics.
Mandates of New Departments
Manitoba government has created two new departments to protect vulnerable Manitobans and spearhead new job opportunities for young Manitobans, Premier Brian Pallister announced in early January 2021, as nine ministers were sworn in to new portfolios including three new ministers entering cabinet for the first time.
Pallister said, “Our strong team has a clear focus on helping working families, seniors and vulnerable Manitobans, protecting our health and education systems, and setting the groundwork for a sustained economic recovery by creating job opportunities.”
There are six female ministers, the largest number since this government was elected in 2016, the premier noted. The new cabinet will comprise 18 members, fewer than under the previous government.
Biographies of New Ministers
Wayne Ewasko, MLA for Lac du Bonnet, enters cabinet as minister for advanced education, skills and immigration.
“Our pandemic recovery plan is focused on getting people back to work and ensuring new job opportunities for young Manitobans and new immigrants we welcome into our province,” said Pallister. “This new department will focus on aligning advanced education institutions with the needs of the labour markets of today and tomorrow by giving young Manitobans the skills they need to succeed and new immigrants the job opportunities our province can offer. Minister Ewasko’s 17 years of experience as a teacher and guidance counsellor makes him particularly well-suited to carry out this important task.”
Derek Johnson, MLA for Interlake–Gimli, enters cabinet as minister for municipal relations.
“Our cities, towns and communities are the building blocks of jobs and growth, and strong communities’ said Pallister. “Creating new economic opportunities where people live right across this province is the focus of this department. Minister Johnson served as an RM councillor and was active on the West Interlake Planning District before becoming an MLA. He knows the needs of Manitoba’s municipalities.”
Audrey Gordon, MLA for Southdale, enters cabinet as the first-ever minister for mental health, wellness and recovery. She is the first Black person to be appointed to cabinet in provincial history.
“Mental health is every bit as important as physical health and will be an unfortunate legacy of this pandemic,” said Pallister. “This new department will develop a provincial mental health and addictions strategy across government to help Manitobans and families get the care and support they need. Minister Gordon’s experience as a health professional and her personal empathy and compassion make her the ideal person to lead this challenge.”
Kelvin Goertzen, MLA for Steinbach, becomes deputy premier and minister of legislative and public affairs and retains his role as government house leader.
“Minister Goertzen has served exceptionally in two major government portfolios for over four years and asked that he be given the chance to concentrate on a personal passion of his – the legislative assembly and connecting citizens with their government and legislature,” said Pallister. “His commitment to democracy is second to none and I am delighted with this new role and opportunity for Minister Goertzen.”
Heather Stefanson, MLA for Tuxedo, becomes minister of health and seniors care.
“Protecting our health-care system is job one in this pandemic,” said Pallister. “Seniors are among the most vulnerable in our society and I want to ensure our health-care system is focused on their needs today and tomorrow. Minister Stefanson is a proven minister who gets results for people and is perfect to lead this department in the next phase of dealing with COVID.”
Ralph Eichler, MLA for Lakeside, becomes minister of economic development and jobs.
“Protecting jobs and creating new economic growth through investment and trade is the resolute focus of this new department,” said Pallister. “As we navigate through the pandemic, we must also keep preparing for a sustained economic recovery that gets people back to work and keeps businesses open and competitive. Minister Eichler has been managing this well over the past year and a half, and is the right person to keep doing so.”
Cliff Cullen, MLA for Spruce Woods, becomes minister of education.
“Protecting education and keeping our schools safe is the top priority of our education minister and department,” said Pallister. “Educators, parents and students themselves have been doing their part under difficult circumstances. Minister Cullen is an experienced, accomplished minister who, with his own children in the public education system, understands the need to create the best education system Manitoba can have.”
Cameron Friesen, MLA for Morden-Winkler, becomes minister of justice and attorney general.
“Protecting families and keeping communities safe is the focus of our justice department,” said Pallister. “Minister Friesen has been a tireless and committed minister in fixing our finances and repairing our health services in his previous roles. He will bring that same dedication to justice.”
Rochelle Squires, MLA for Riel, becomes minister of families as well as minister responsible for francophone affairs.
“Protecting vulnerable families and helping those in need is crucial during this pandemic, and well after this pandemic,” said Pallister. “Our priority is to provide more child-care opportunities for working families and that will be a key focus of this department’s work in the months ahead. Minister Squires’ personal story is both inspiring and a testament to her being the right choice at this time to lead this important department for Manitobans.”
Ministers whose portfolio responsibilities have not changed are:
• Ron Schuler – minister of infrastructure;
• Blaine Pedersen – minister of agriculture and resource development;
• Eileen Clarke – minister of Indigenous and northern relations;
• Cathy Cox – minister of sport, culture and heritage;
• Scott Fielding – minister of finance;
• Jeff Wharton – minister of Crown services;
• Reg Helwer – minister of central services; and
• Sarah Guillemard – minister of conservation and climate.