REGINA - Premier Scott Moe made changes to cabinet Tuesday, with five MLAs shuffled to new portfolios while two MLAs received promotions to the cabinet table.
The newly shuffled cabinet was sworn-in at a ceremony at Government House by Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan Russ Mirasty on Tuesday morning. It was an important day for those involved, but perhaps more so for two government members in particular.
Both Jeremy Cockrill from The Battlefords and Dana Skoropad from Arm River are cabinet ministers today. Cockrill becomes Minister of Highways with responsibility for the Water Security Agency. Skoropad becomes Minister of Environment, a position that was at one time held by Premier Moe during the Brad Wall government.
Of the current ministers moving to new roles, the biggest move is Bronwyn Eyre out of Energy and Resources to become Saskatchewan's first-ever female Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
Jim Reiter replaces Eyre as Minister of Energy and Resources, while Gordon Wyant moves out of the Justice and Attorney General role and into a new one as Minister of Advanced Education.
As well, Estevan MLA Lori Carr moves out of Social Services to become Minister of SaskBuilds and Procurement, Minister Responsible for the Public Service Commission, and Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority. Replacing her as Minister of Social Services will be Gene Makowsky.
The government also announced a new Sustainable Growth Secretariat will be established in Executive Council within the Premier's oversight under his existing responsibility for Intergovernmental Affairs.
Ten other MLAs will be staying in their portfolios:
Donna Harpauer remains Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance.
Don Morgan remains the Minister of Crown Investments Corporation and becomes Minister responsible for all major crown corporations, including SaskEnergy, SGI, SaskPower, SaskTel, SaskGaming and SaskWater. Morgan remains Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety and Minister Responsible for the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board.
Dustin Duncan remains Minister of Education.
Christine Tell stays as Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety.
Jeremy Harrison continues as Minister of Trade and Export Development and Minister of Immigration and Career Training, Minister Responsible for Innovation Saskatchewan and Minister Responsible for Tourism Saskatchewan. He is also staying as Government House Leader.
David Marit is still Minister of Agriculture and Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation. Don McMorris is still Minister of Government Relations, Minister Responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs, and Minister Responsible for the Provincial Capital Commission.Laura Ross continues as Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, and Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. Everett Hindley remains Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health.
Finally, Paul Merriman continues as Minister of Health. That particular news drew the ire of the opposition New Democrats, who issued a news release blasting the cabinet shuffle.
“On the issues that matter most to the people of Saskatchewan – the affordability and cost-of-living crisis, health care capacity, cuts to education, investments in mental health – this Cabinet shuffle indicates a status quo approach to addressing these very challenging issues,” their release stated.
The opposition accused the Saskatchewan Party government of maintaining “the very ministers who take their marching orders and continue to sit on their hands.”
Departing the cabinet were Fred Bradshaw, former Highways minister, and Warren Kaeding, former Environment minister. The number of ministers stays the same, at 18.
In speaking to reporters, Moe explained some of the reasons behind the changes. One was to “add capacity to the government of Saskatchewan.” He also pointed to “continuity” as well, pointing particularly to health care and education.
But Moe also spoke of “Saskatchewan putting our best foot forward in defending the interests and defending the opportunity that lies before us.”
Moe pointed to the “significant investment” into the province over the last number of months from all over the world.
“What you’re seeing here today most certainly is a cabinet that is going to create every opportunity for that growth and that investment to continue. And we’re going to defend our right as Saskatchewan, as people of this province, to achieve what we can achieve against those that don’t have Saskatchewan’s best interests in mind.”
Moe expanded by saying some of that will be “legal and constitutional discussions,” pointing to the recent carbon tax challenge, as well as their intervenor status in the Alberta government’s successful challenge to Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act.
In that challenge Alberta had argued the federal government had intruded into the provincial jurisdiction. That case could be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Premier Moe indicated the province is ready to defend its interests.
“We are going to defend Saskatchewan’s interests and if that means we are going to have to use the Constitution to do it, we will.”
The appointment of Eyre to the Justice and Attorney General portfolio looks to be a move to put someone in the role with considerable experience with the energy sector, which could be relevant to the court challenges.
When asked about her new role, Eyre acknowledged the issues that have emerged impacting energy and resources.
Eyre acknowledged Bill C-69 went “right to the heart of provincial jurisdiction.” She said those issues and regulations “are very much top of mind for us.”
Eyre also pointed to commitments from the Throne Speech to rural safety, public safety and the Major Crime Unit as being “top of mind” as well.
Another issue is the proposed the new gun laws announced by the federal government on Monday, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposing a freeze on handgun ownership.
Moe called it “extremely problematic” because the laws seemed aimed at “going after those who owned firearms but do so legally, and are following all the rules and regulations that are in place.”
“This is nothing more than really virtue signalling by the federal government, that we see time and time and time again regardless of the topic.”
Regarding the appointment of Eyre and other women to leading roles in the cabinet, Premier Moe called the appointments “important in so many ways,” but also said it wasn’t the reason they were there. These were “merit-based appointments.”
Moe pointed to Harpauer staying on as Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, saying Harpauer “most certainly deserves to be Deputy Premier of this province but likely deserves to be Premier of this province, quite frankly.”
He called Harpauer “someone that I lean on for experience and lean on for guidance whether it be in my personal life or whether it be in our professional life.”
Premier Moe also spoke of the other appointments. On Makowsky moving to Social Services, Moe said his service in multiple portfolios in cabinet “has been impeccable.”
He also spoke of the appointments of the two new ninisters Cockrill and Skoropad.
Moe said the two MLAs have been in the legislature a couple of years now, and had “proved themselves to be not only good representatives, tremendous representatives I would say of the folks who put them here, in their respective constituencies, but have proven to be leaders among our caucus members as well. They are individuals that people will go to with questions and concerns and thoughts on how things operate in government.”