Insights and Analysis

Premier Overhauls Manitoba Cabinet

Today, Manitoba’s 24th Premier, Heather Stefanson, announced significant changes to her cabinet with the majority of portfolios changing hands:

  • Cliff Cullen, Deputy Premier and Minister of Economic Development, Investment and Trade. Cullen most recently served as Minister of Education, and will have familiarity with his new portfolio having served as Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade from May 2016-August 2017.
  • Kelvin Goertzen, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. He will also be responsible for Manitoba Public Insurance and serve as government house leader. Goertzen has multiple degrees from the University of Manitoba, including a Bachelor of Laws. He also served as the 23rd Premier on an interim basis during the recent PC leadership race.
  • Cameron Friesen, Minister of Finance. Friesen previously held the Finance role from May 2016-August 2018 and he will also have responsibility for Manitoba Hydro. Most recently, Friesen served as Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
  • Scott Fielding, Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development. He will also have responsibility for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. Previously he was the Minister of Finance. This is a new department as agriculture was previously alongside resource development. 
  • Jeff Wharton, Minister of Environment, Climate and Parks. He will also be responsible for Efficiency Manitoba. Most recently Wharton served as Minister of Crown Services, a department that was responsible for all major crown corporations but has now been disbanded.
  • Reg Helwer, Minister of Labour, Consumer Protection and Government Services. He will also be responsible for the Public Utilities Board and the civil service. Most recently, Helwer served as Minister of Central Services so he will be familiar with many components of his new portfolio.
  • Wayne Ewasko, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Learning. Prior to elected office, Ewasko worked for almost 20 years as a teacher and guidance counsellor. Most recently he served as Minister of Advanced Education.
  • Derek Johnson, Minister of Agriculture. Johnson succeeds Ralph Eichler who was previously in the role and is no longer in cabinet. Eichler was first elected in 2003.
  • Jon Reyes, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration. Reyes most recently served as Minister of Economic Development and Jobs.
  • Sarah Guillemard, Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness. She previously served as Minister of Conservation and Climate.

Coming back into cabinet is Eileen Clarke as Minister of Municipal Relations. In July 2021, Clarke resigned from cabinet as Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Her resignation came shortly after comments former Premier Pallister made after the toppling of statues on the legislature’s grounds on Canada Day. (Pallister himself resigned about a month later). Clarke is quite familiar with the municipal file having served as the Minister from May 2016-August 2017. Prior to becoming a MLA, Clarke served as the Mayor of Gladstone Manitoba and as Vice-President of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.

Three new faces to cabinet are:

  • Scott Johnston becomes the Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care as the health department has been split into three. Johnson is the MLA for Assiniboia.
  • Andrew Smith becomes the Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage. He will also be responsible for Travel Manitoba and the Manitoba Centennial Centre Corporation, and succeeds Cathy Cox who is no longer in cabinet. Smith is the MLA for Lagimodiere.
  • Doyle Piwniuk becomes the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. Piwniuk is the MLA for Turtle Mountain which is in the southwest corner of the province.

Only three ministers continue in the same or similar portfolios:

  • Alan Lagimodiere as Minister of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations;
  • Rochelle Squires as Minister of Families but will also be responsible for status of women, accessibility and francophone affairs; and
  • Audrey Gordon as Minister of Health, with a renewed mandate to focus on managing the ongoing pandemic and working to clear the surgical backlog in the province.

Also on the government’s radar are two upcoming by-elections that will need to be called in the next few months. One in the Fort Whyte riding before early April to fill the seat of former Premier Pallister in what is considered a safe PC riding, and one in Thompson that is considered a safe NDP seat, following the tragic death of MLA Danielle Adams in a December car accident. Thompson is considered a safe NDP seat.

Manitoba’s legislature is scheduled to resume sitting on March 2nd where Ministers will face off against the Official Opposition NDP critics in Question Period. With many ministers in new roles and a few others returning to old ones, they will all need to quickly get up to speed with the next election scheduled for early October 2023.

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