HALIFAX — Tim Houston was sworn in as Nova Scotia's 30th premier Tuesday, naming 18 cabinet ministers, including seven women, after promising to address gender parity in the executive council.
Houston and his new Progressive Conservative cabinet took the oath of office administered by Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc during a ceremony at the Halifax Convention Centre. The Tories surged to power in the Aug. 17 provincial election, capturing 31 of the legislature's 55 seats.
The new premier told reporters he was proud of a cabinet he said included the largest number of women in the province's history.
"We went through an extensive process to speak to caucus and to make sure we have the right people in the right assignments that gives them a chance to be successful," he said.
The Tory campaign focused almost exclusively on fixing health care and Houston said it would be his government's main priority.
To that end, he named political newcomer Michelle Thompson to the health portfolio along with caucus veterans Barbara Adams, who will head the new Department of Seniors and Long Term Care, and Brian Comer, who will look after the Office of Mental Health and Addictions in addition to his duties as minister for Communications Nova Scotia.
Thompson, a registered nurse and former nursing home CEO, defeated incumbent Liberal minister Randy Delorey in the Antigonish riding. She was described by Houston as an "intelligent, compassionate and focused person" who understands health care.
She said her priority will be to improve access to primary care for Nova Scotians who are without a family doctor.
"It's exciting and a little daunting — I won't lie," Thompson said. "I've been in health care for 30 years and I feel that my lived experience is an asset in this role."
A total of six rookie politicians made it into cabinet, including Jill Balser as minister of the new Department of Labour Skills and Immigration, Susan Corkum-Greek as minister of economic development and Becky Druhan as minister of education.
Other first-time politicians who are now ministers include former radio news director Greg Morrow in the agriculture portfolio and Brian Wong, who will lead the Department of Advanced Education.
Both Corkum-Greek and Morrow also beat sitting cabinet ministers in the recent election.
Former interim Tory leader Karla MacFarlane is the new minister of community services and will also be responsible for the Office of the Status of Women and the Office of L'nu Affairs, while veteran Cape Breton member Allan MacMaster is the new deputy premier.
MacMaster also gets the all-important finance portfolio, while Brad Johns becomes justice minister and Tim Halman is the new minister of environment and climate change.
Two other caucus veterans were also given cabinet responsibilities, including Pat Dunn as minister of communities, culture, tourism and heritage and as the minister responsible for African Nova Scotian affairs.
Houston's former leadership rival John Lohr is minister of the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Lohr takes the portfolio at a time when pressure is mounting to do something to address the lack of affordable housing and skyrocketing rents, especially in the greater Halifax area.
Lohr said he realizes the gravity of the situation. "In fact, Premier Houston has indicated to me that this is his second-most important file right now," he said. "We recognize that there are huge issues in housing."
Houston has said that rent control is not the answer, and Lohr said his priority will be to work with the private sector to find solutions.
Other cabinet members include Tory Rushton as minister of natural resources, Colton LeBlanc as minister of Service Nova Scotia and Acadian affairs and Kim Masland as minister of public works.
Meanwhile, Houston told reporters his government intends to return to the legislature for the fall sitting in mid-October.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2021.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press