The recent Sask. Party leadership race has opened up several cabinet positions and prompted a cabinet shuffle.
Arguably the biggest move Premier Brad Wall announced Wednesday is reassigning Kevin Doherty from finance back to the advanced education portfolio. Donna Harpauer takes over as finance minister.
Admitting the budget has been “unpopular”, Wall maintained it had nothing to do with the decision.
“He indicated to me that he would be happy to serve in cabinet but he would rather take a break from finance,” Wall explained.
Doherty echoed that point, telling reporters he was ready for a change.
“I just thought as we’re going through this transition, as we are going through this bit of a change, this is a perfect transition time. Obviously, the party is going through this leadership race here so I thought now is an appropriate time,” Doherty said.
With treasury board meetings for the 2018-19 budget year about to begin, Doherty added this will not impact the budget cycle.
Having served on treasury board and within numerous cabinet portfolios, Harpauer said she is ready for what lies ahead.
“I am looking forward to this, it is going to be challenging, I will work very, very hard, I am honoured,” Harpauer said after being sworn-in.
Most recently, Harpauer served as minister of government relations and minister responsible for First Nations, Metis and northern affairs.
Other changes in Wednesday’s cabinet shuffle include Don Morgan moving from education to justice, where he’d served until 2012. He remains as deputy premier.
Morgan takes over as justice and attorney general from Gord Wyant, who’s had to vacate the position to run to replace Wall as leader.
The leadership race also meant Tina Beaudry-Mellor stepped down as social services minister; Jeremy Harrison stepped down as minister of economy; Ken Cheveldayoff stepped down as minister of parks, culture and sport.
Dustin Duncan takes over as minister of environment, while Bronwyn Eyre moves to education.
There are also new faces in cabinet, including Paul Merriman as minister of social services, Steven Bonk as minister of economy, Larry Doke as minister of government relations as well as minister responsible for First Nations, Metis and northern affairs and Gene Makowsky as minister of parks, culture and sport.
It’s not clear how long this cabinet could be in place, as the new leader — who will be selected on Jan. 27, 2018 — could choose to shuffle the positions once again.
NDP: same old Sask. Party
Despite Kevin Doherty being out as finance minister after the 2017 budget was full of cuts and tax hikes, the NDP didn’t see it as a positive Wednesday afternoon.
“Any budget isn’t one minister’s decision,” said interim leader of the NDP Nicole Sarauer. “It’s a caucus decision, so the entire Sask. Party wears the budget.”
Sarauer said Joe Hargrave was minister of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company while it was being dismantled and has now been promoted to take over as minister of SaskTel.
“We know this government has been having backroom meetings about selling off SaskTel,” she said. “This sends a very bad message to the people of Saskatchewan.”
Former CEO of the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre Paul Merriman was given minister of Social Services, but Sarauer doesn’t expect food banks to do better under his leadership.
“He’s one minister,” she said. “We’ve seen cuts to social services, I hope to see them reversed, but I’m very skeptical because we have a budget that hurts those community-based organizations.”