Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson announced another shuffle of her most trusted advisors, her third in as many weeks, but this time at the Cabinet level. The new Progressive Conservative (PC) front bench is a mix of experienced and first-time ministers, described in the Premier’s press release as “rejuvenated.”
Deputy Premier Cliff Cullen retained that key role and has also been elevated to Minister of Finance. Cullen replaces Cameron Friesen, who announced last week that he intends to seek the federal Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) nomination in anticipation of the impending retirement of Candice Bergen in the riding of Portage-Lisgar. Despite recently announcing his retirement from politics, Cullen’s promotion bucks the traditional trend of removing Cabinet Ministers who do not intend to run in the next election.
Friesen’s career change was announced just days after the Manitoba Government scheduled its pre-budget sessions, the first of which was set to be held last night and has since been postponed. There is no word yet on the remaining mix of in-person and virtual town hall meetings originally publicized to take place over the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, Manitoba’s new Finance Minister, Cliff Cullen, now bears responsibility for balancing the government’s messaging that Friesen’s sudden departure will not affect the upcoming budget, while also ensuring that yet-to-be-held public engagement will be meaningful toward the final Budget plan for the coming fiscal year.
Along with Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Cullen, the Premier highlighted returning ministers Kelvin Goertzen (Justice and Attorney General), Rochelle Squires (Families), and Jeff Wharton, who replaces Cullen at Economic Development, Investment and Trade.
New additions at the Cabinet table include: Janice Morley-Lecomte (Mental Health and Community Wellness); former Legislative Assistant James Teitsma (Consumer Protection and Government Services); former City of Winnipeg mayoral candidate Kevin Klein (Environment and Climate Change); and, Manitoba’s first-ever Muslim MLA, Ibrahim (Obby) Khan (Sport, Culture and Heritage.)
Yesterday’s announcement followed several weeks of MLA departures that ensure change to at least one third of the PC’s current caucus, even if the party were to retain those seats. The Premier continues to reference the PC’s “refresh” in all announcements, whether they be changes to her cabinet, senior staff, or economic development investments, in the hopes that voters will renew their support at the ballot box next fall.
Premier Stefanson also gave notice yesterday of one further announcement to come – a shuffle of Deputy Ministers. The recent promotion of Kathryn Gerrard to Clerk of the Executive Council left her former Deputy Minister role at Economic Development vacant causing a ripple effect through the highest level of the provincial bureaucracy.
Each individual involved in this latest “refresh”, and by extension their supporting staff, will only have a few short weeks to get up to speed before the legislature resumes on March 1, 2023.
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For information and insights about what these developments mean for Manitoba’s political landscape, please contact:
Tara Bingham – Senior Strategy Advisor
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