A few people have asked my opinion on last week’s Cabinet shuffle so I decided to share my thoughts here with anyone else who may be interested.
Overall, I think the realignment is well thought out, will improve Cabinet decision making, and most importantly, will better serve the people of the Northwest Territories.
There are a few factors that need to be considered when determining which Minister should have which Ministerial portfolio: (i) the relative strengths, weaknesses, areas of expertise, and areas of interest of each Minister, (ii) the workload associated with each portfolio, and (iii) the relative importance of each portfolio based on the priorities of the Assembly. I think that the reorganization addresses all these factors.
I support the Premier’s decision to relinquish responsibility for Industry, Tourism & Investment (ITI). It is a large, and extremely important portfolio that requires a hefty time commitment. His duties as Premier take up a considerable amount of time and I’m not sure that there are enough hours in the day for any human being to devote enough time to both. He retains his role as the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Aboriginal Relations (DIAAR). Without ITI, he can now focus more of his efforts on settling land claims, which may be the most important issue in the Territory today.
Minister Schumann is now responsible for Public Works and Services (PWS), and ITI, in addition to Transportation. He relinquishes responsibility for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. This is a logical move, as Public Works and Transportation are both largely infrastructure departments. With his background in the private sector, he is well suited for the role of Minister of ITI. ITI’s mandate is to “foster a positive economic environment”. I let Wally know that I won’t give him a free ride just because he’s from Hay River. If anything, I will be holding him to a higher standard when it comes to economic development in the South Slave because of his familiarity with the region.
Minister Cochrane traded PWS for Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA). She has taken a very community-centric approach in her role as the Minister Responsible for the Housing Corporation, and I think that bodes well for MACA. She understands that all communities are unique, and a cookie-cutter approach does not work. She is also very fiscally minded. I think she is a good fit for her new portfolio.
Minister Sebert has assumed responsibly for the Department of Lands. I think that his familiarity with the rules surrounding land conveyance, which he acquired as a practicing lawyer, will help him in this role. I also believe his legal background will be an asset in overseeing the drafting of the complex new lands legislation that we now require as a result of devolution.
Minister RC McLeod has inherited responsibility for ENR and the Department of Human Resources, and retained his role as the Minister of Finance. This is the only portfolio adjustment that I am wary of. My concern isn’t with the abilities of the Minister McLeod, it is with the extraordinary time commitment that ENR and Finance each demand. I know from watching Wally that ENR requires a lot of travel to the communities. In addition, there are major initiatives underway at the Department. Finance is time consuming because of the Department’s reach, and because of the complexity of the subject matter. His third department, Human Resources, is in dire need of improvement but I’m afraid it may be neglected because there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Minister Moses retains his role as Minister of Education, Culture & Employment. He’s a great fit for the role and I would have been shocked if it was reassigned.
Minister Abernethy also retained his role as Minister of Health and Social Services. He’s shown a willingness to work with me on local issues. I think that if I do my part, he will be a great ally in the effort to improve our system.