Premier Blaine Higgs has jettisoned six members of his previous cabinet and has appointed six women as ministers in a sweeping post-election shuffle.
The six Progressive Conservative MLAs who served in Higgs's cabinet from 2018 until they were dropped Tuesday include high-profile members Andrea Anderson-Mason, who was attorney general, Jeff Carr who was at Environment and Local Government, and Jake Stewart who was minister of Aboriginal affairs.
Bill Oliver, Sherry Wilson and Ross Wetmore are also out.
Dorothy Shephard, who oversaw a bitter battle with nursing-home unions through most of 2019, has been promoted to health minister.
Besides the COVID-19 pandemic, Shephard faces pressure for Medicare to fund abortions at Fredericton's Clinic 554, which is on the verge of closing.
Only three hospitals in the province, two in Moncton and one in Bathurst, provide publicly funded abortions.
Shephard has attended pro-life rallies at the legislature in the past but said Tuesday she will put her personal views aside in her new role.
"I don't know that I could ever have an abortion," she said.
"However I would move heaven and earth to get any woman the help that she felt she needed. I think it's a traumatic thing for a woman to have to go through and I think we all need to be compassionate."
Shephard replaces Ted Flemming at Health. Flemming becomes Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Attorney-General.
He replaces Anderson-Mason in two of those positions.
The second-term MLA told CBC News on Tuesday she wasn't committing to staying for a full four-year term after the shuffle. Like Higgs himself, Anderson-Mason said, "I didn't do this because I didn't have any other options.
"There's been a significant change in our life in the last few hours and we're going to reflect as a family and see where this goes."
Higgs told reporters that dropping six ministers was "nothing personal" and he said his new line-up is what he has "right now," holding out the possibility that reorganizing departments in the coming years could let some MLAs return to cabinet.
"We will look going forward at what needs to change," he said.
In other cabinet moves, Bruce Fitch replaces Shephard as minister of social development, while Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy remains in that job. Mary Wilson moves from Economic Development to Minister of Service New Brunswick.
Rookie Moncton East MLA Daniel Allain becomes the minister of local government and local government reform.
Allain told reporters the title is a sign that the government considers reform a major priority.
Other first-time MLAs joining cabinet are:
- Margaret Johnson as minister of agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries.
- Arlene Dunn as minister responsible for economic development. She is also minister responsible for immigration and minister of Aboriginal affairs.
- Tammy Scott-Wallace as minister of tourism, heritage and culture and minister responsible for women's equality.
- Jill Green as minister of transportation and infrastructure.
The six women represented the largest number of women ever in a New Brunswick cabinet.
Hampton MLA Gary Crossman, first elected in 2014, joins cabinet as minister of environment and climate change and minister responsible for the Regional Development Corporation.
Other ministers who took office in 2018 who are staying where they are include:
- Ernie Steeves as minister of finance and treasury board.
- Trevor Holder as minister of post-secondary education, training and labour.
- Glen Savoie as minister responsible for la francophonie.
- Mike Holland as minister of natural resources and energy development.
There was criticism of Higgs's decision to give the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio to Dunn, a minister with several other responsibilities. Stewart was the first minister who had it as his sole responsibility.
Metepenagiag Chief Bill Ward said he's been in his position for about five years and Dunn will be the fourth minister he has dealt with. "It seems as though it is by design that we are in a perpetual meet and greet mode" with the province, he said in a tweet. "Fun times."