Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has handed back one of the toughest jobs in cabinet to one of his most loyal and trusted colleagues.
Leo Glavine was announced as the new minister of health and wellness during a cabinet shuffle Tuesday. He takes over from Randy Delorey, who recently announced his intention to run for the Liberal leadership.
"I guess what is old is new again," Glavine quipped to reporters outside Government House, just minutes after taking over the duties he last held three years ago.
Glavine oversaw the merging of nine district health authorities into one when he served as health minister during McNeil's first mandate. He was in charge during tumultuous labour relations between the governing Liberals and the province's health unions.
After the 2017 election, McNeil shuffled Glavine to the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage — a move that would normally be seen as a demotion, but at the time was considered giving a friend and colleague a break.
"The premier rightly gave me, in some ways, a lighter load," said Glavine.
He acknowledged it's "a challenging time for sure" to take on the role when the province is in the grips of a pandemic.
"I'm certainly looking forward to getting briefed as minister Delorey did every week of the pandemic," he said.
"No doubt the premier and Dr. [Robert] Strang will take the lead, but we have a lot of work going on in the department that has to support our physicians, our hospital structure, certainly our long-term care."
Lunenburg MLA Suzanne Lohnes-Croft has taken over Glavine's portfolio at Communities, Culture and Heritage, a promotion she said came out of the blue Monday.
"Caught me completely off guard," she told reporters after her swearing-in. "I knew there were some changes coming up but I wasn't expecting to be a member of the executive council."
Lohnes-Croft said she is looking forward to her new duties and trying to help artists struggling as a result of the pandemic.
"After listening to what people bring forward to me, I'll have a clearer picture of what the needs are," she said. "And I'm willing to work with them to see what we can do to help them out."
Cabinet ministers Lena Diab and Derek Mombourquette were given added responsibilities.
Diab, the immigration minister, will also oversee labour and advanced education. Derek Mombourquette added lands and forestry to his energy portfolio.
McNeil told reporters he expects these to be the last changes he makes to his cabinet before he is replaced as Liberal leader and premier in February.
"But who knows?" he joked outside the lieutenant-governor's residence. "I thought the next time I'd be here, I'd be calling an election."
Three former cabinet ministers are vying to be the next Liberal leader, including Delorey, former labour minister Labi Kousoulis and former lands and forestry minister Iain Rankin.
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