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NDP unimpressed by cabinet changes

The opposition New Democrats don't believe Premier Brad Wall went far enough in the changes he made to the provincial cabinet in last week's shuffle.

The opposition New Democrats don't believe Premier Brad Wall went far enough in the changes he made to the provincial cabinet in last week's shuffle.

Opposition leader Dwain Lingenfelter told the Regional Optimist last week he believes a shuffle was necessary, but did not expect much to change in a number of key areas.

"A lot of change was needed," said Lingenfelter, because the government "performed very poorly in the last session."

But while there were widespread shuffling of ministers to new positions such as finance, municipal affairs, education and other areas, what raised Lingenfelter's eyebrows the most were those cabinet ministers who kept their positions in the shuffle.

"We believe Don McMorris, minister of health, should have been fired," said Lingenfelter, because of the "issues around waiting lists and doctor shortages and the whole privacy issue." He took the Wall government to task for promising to eliminate waiting lists and for failing to deliver once elected to office.

There is also no change at agriculture, with minister Bob Bjornerud continuing in his position. That also raised the ire of Lingenfelter.

Bjornerud had "not been delivering to farmers across the province," said Lingenfelter, noting the reaction of the Wall government "has been very slow" with respect to dealing with concerns of flooded-out farmers, with the recent moisture and bad weather in several parts of the province.

Another minister who kept his position was highways minister Jim Reiter. Highways is another area where Lingenfelter has been highly critical of the government.

"The highway system is in real need of some serious, serious upgrades," the opposition leader said, noting the number of potholes he has encountered on rural roads.

The big change in the cabinet shuffle came in finance, with deputy premier Ken Krawetz taking over from Rod Gantefoer, who plans to retire from politics next year.

Lingenfelter was happy to see a change in the finance portfolio, continuing to hammer the government for miscalculating potash revenues in the 2009 budget. But he didn't blame Gantefoer for the "big mistakes in finance" over the past couple of years, as he put it.

He said he believes the potash numbers used weren't Gantefoer's own numbers or the ones the finance ministry wanted, but instead were "the numbers that Premier Wall and Bill Boyd thought up because they wanted numbers that were much higher than anyone was predicting."

Lingenfelter said he's concerned with Deputy Premier Krawetz as minister of finance, it will be "even easier for the premier to meddle in the finances of the province." He said the financial decisions should be left up to the experts in finance, and predicts even more decisions will be made from the premier's office.

In general, the opposition leader was hardly impressed with the makeup of the newly shuffled cabinet. He cited the return of Prince Albert area MLA Darryl Hickie to cabinet rank, as minister of municipal affairs, as part of the "revolving door" in cabinet.

As for Northwest MLAs such as Lloydminster's Tim McMillan, promoted to cabinet as minister of the Crown Investments Corporation, as well as Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison's shift from Municipal Affairs to Enterprise, Lingenfelter believes those moves were made to boost the profile of the MLAs in the region.

He added that he never was a big believer in promoting based on raising profile, and believes the moves will backfire if the individuals "do less than an excellent job in their portfolio."

Battlefords MLA Len Taylor was also critical of the cabinet moves. In a news release he echoed Lingenfelter's sentiments that not much was going to change on a number of important files, including the promise to build a new Saskatchewan Hospital.

"The Wall government's most important election promise to the people of the Battlefords was to maintain his commitment to building a new Saskatchewan hospital," said Taylor. With Health Minister McMorris keeping his job, Taylor said, "development on the new hospital which has been non-existent to this date will continue to be slow. The new finance minister, Ken Krawetz, says he will continue the work of former Finance Minister Rod Gantefoer, so, again, I see virtually no quick action on Sask. Hospital."

Taylor also said new housing minister June Draude was unlikely to make changes to support people trying to find affordable housing in the Battlefords. He also sees little movement on highways concerns, particularly on Highway 4 north to Meadow Lake which has seen particularly heavy traffic.

"We need to see additional attention paid to the highways running north, and we need a provincial government working to restore rail traffic to the north so that truck traffic on the highways can be reduced," Taylor said.