HALIFAX — Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston will be sworn into office during a ceremony Tuesday in Halifax, and the new premier has suggested his cabinet will have gender parity.
"It will be a capable cabinet and it will be representative for sure," Houston told reporters last week about his cabinet, which is expected to be between 15 and 18 members.
Houston's Tories surged to power in the Aug. 17 provincial election, capturing 31 of the legislature's 55 seats. The new caucus is composed of 16 returning members and 15 new members. Of that, Houston will be able to choose from among three veteran women members and six new women members in order to meet his parity goal.
The previous Liberal government under Iain Rankin had four women in the 17-member cabinet, including deputy premier Kelly Regan.
Tom Urbaniak, a political scientist at Cape Breton University, said former Tory interim leader Karla MacFarlane is one of the veterans who will likely be picked. MacFarlane has been touted as a potential deputy premier.
"She will definitely get a senior cabinet post, but whether it's deputy premier is another question because she's from the same region as Tim Houston," said Urbaniak, noting that the position is often used to balance geographical interests.
Returning member Barbara Adams is another almost certain choice, he said. She distinguished herself in Opposition as an advocate for seniors. Adams would also help give Houston cabinet representation from the Halifax area.
Of the newcomers, Urbaniak mentioned Digby-Annapolis MLA Jill Balser, Hants West MLA Melissa Sheehy-Richard and Antigonish MLA Michelle Thompson as possible choices. Sheehy-Richard has experience in community development and Thompson was a nursing home CEO.
Lunenburg West MLA Becky Druhan might also be in the mix after making an impression during the election campaign, Urbaniak said.
In addition to gender, Houston must juggle a number of other factors such as experience and professional talent, diversity, geography, and loyalty to the party and to the leader.
Another factor at play is Houston's campaign pledge to invest heavily in the province's ailing health system. Houston has already highlighted health care and managing the COVID-19 pandemic as his immediate priorities once in office.
"Fortunately, he does have health-care professionals in the caucus so he will have some good bench strength there," Urbaniak said, referring to Adams, a former physiotherapist, and Colton LeBlanc, a former paramedic.
Experienced hands such as Allan MacMaster, Tim Halman and former leadership rival John Lohr will also likely make it into cabinet, although Urbaniak pointed out that experience won't necessarily "trump everything else."
"Legislative experience counts but it's not everything, and we will definitely see newcomers in the cabinet, maybe even as many as half of the ministers being newcomers," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2021.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press