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Manitoba premier promotes four backbenchers in pre election cabinet shuffle

The Canadian Press
Manitoba premier promotes four backbenchers in pre election cabinet shuffle

WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson promoted four backbenchers from suburban Winnipeg areas to her inner circle Monday in a cabinet shuffle eight months out from an election.

Janice Morley-Lecomte, elected in 2016, was named minister of mental health and community wellness. James Teistma, also elected in 2016, was named minister of government services and consumer protection.

The other two new ministers in the Progressive Conservative cabinet are rookies who were recently elected in byelections. Obby Khan is the new minister of sport, culture and heritage. Kevin Klein is the new minister for environment and climate change.

“Today we are gathered here to reflect on the importance of hope and renewal, which is vital in pretty much every aspect of our lives, but it’s also vital in government,” Stefanson said at the swearing-in ceremony at the legislature.

Stefanson has also recently shaken up her staff as well. She changed her chief of staff and replaced her communications director, among others.

The cabinet shuffle comes as the governing Tories have trailed the Opposition New Democrats in opinion polls for two years, especially in Winnipeg where most legislature seats are.

The drop started during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as hospitals began to struggle to deal with rising patient counts and surgeries were postponed. In 2021, dozens of intensive care patients were flown to other provinces in a bid to free up beds.

The shuffle was prompted by recent announcements by five cabinet ministers who are resigning soon or staying on but not running again in the election scheduled for Oct. 3. The most recent was Camerion Friesen, who announced Friday that he was planning to step down as finance minister and resign his legislature seat to seek a federal Conservative nomination.

Friesen and two ministers not seeking re-election – Reg Helwer and Alan Lagimodiere – were dropped from cabinet Monday.

Two others not seeking re-election remain in cabinet but change portfolios. Cliff Cullen moves from economic development to finance. Eileen Clarke moves from municipal relations to Indigenous reconciliation.

One political analyst said the shuffle seems aimed at promoting Winnipeg Tories in danger of losing their seats.

“They’re in suburban Winnipeg seats that the government has to hold onto if they have any hope of winning the next election,” said Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba.

“Stefanson has kind of balanced in keeping the veterans in the big, challenging portfolios while giving opportunities to these newer members who she wants to take on a bigger, more public role.”


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