Manitoba introduces new health minister as part of cabinet shuffle

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s premier has shuffled his cabinet, doubling up on health ministers in the middle of a pandemic, and introducing the first Black cabinet member in the province’s history.

During a private ceremony at the Manitoba Legislature streamed by the province on Tuesday, Premier Brian Pallister shuffled his cabinet and handed new portfolios to nine members, including three who are joining the cabinet for the first time.

Among the largest shake-ups in cabinet was the changes to Manitoba’s health minister. Cameron Friesen (Morden-Winkler), who had previously served as Manitoba’s Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living, was reassigned as the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Manitoba.

Heather Stefanson (Tuxedo), who had previously served as the Minister of Families, is now taking up the mantle of Health and Seniors Care as the province continues to be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it is a job she will not be doing alone. The role of health minister in Manitoba has now been split into two positions – with Pallister bringing Audrey Gordon (Southdale) into his inner circle as the Minister of Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery.

Gordon was first elected in 2019, and was among the first Black MLAs elected to Manitoba’s legislature. The province said she is now the first Black MLA to become a cabinet minister in Manitoba.

Before being elected, she worked as Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s director of strategic initiatives, and worked with the province in departments including health, labour and immigration, and the Multiculturalism Secretariat.

Gordon’s new portfolio – Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery – is a brand new portfolio in Manitoba. The province said it is a standalone ministry aimed at providing mental health policy and program supports with a ‘whole-government’ approach.

Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach) was handed a new portfolio on Tuesday, being sworn in as the Minister of Legislative and public affairs and Deputy Premier of Manitoba. Goertzen remains as the Government House Leader.

Goertzen previously served as Minister of Education, a role that was handed to Cliff Cullen (Spruce Woods) on Tuesday.

Gordon was not the only new face to be welcomed into the cabinet on Tuesday.

Wayne Ewasko (Lac du Bonnet) was sworn in as Minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Immigration. Ewasko was first elected in 2011, then again in 2016 and 2019. He has served as chair of the government caucus. He worked for 17 years as a teacher and guidance councillor.

Ewasko was also handed a brand new portfolio to Manitoba. The province said the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration is tasked with giving access to “advanced education opportunities” and supporting new economic and social opportunities for graduates and immigrants.

Derek Johnson (Interlake–Gimli) was sworn in as Minister of Municipal Relations. He was first elected as MLA for the area in 2016. Before that, he had served as a councillor in the RM of St. Laurent and worked as a financial advisor for many years.

Ralph Eichler (Lakeside), formerly the Minister of Economic Development and Training, was sworn in as the Minister of Economic Development and Jobs.

Rochelle Squires (Riel), Formerly the Minister of Municipal Relations, was sworn in as Minister of Families. She also continues in her role as the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.

The following ministers did not see any change in their portfolios:

  • Ron Schuler (Springfield-Ritchot) – minister of infrastructure;
  • Blaine Pedersen (Midland) – minister of agriculture and resource development;
  • Eileen Clarke (Agassiz) – minister of Indigenous and northern relations;
  • Cathy Cox (Kildonan-River East) – minister of sports, culture and heritage;
  • Scott Fielding (Kirkfield Park)– minister of finance;
  • Jeff Wharton (Red River North) – minister of Crown services;
  • Reg Helwer (Brandon West) – minister of central services; and
  • Sarah Guillemard (Fort Richmond) – minister of conservation and climate.

CTV News Winnipeg will update this story. 

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