Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale hit the reset button Wednesday on her majority Progressive Conservative government after a bruising first half of her four-year term in power.
Dunderdale took a page from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s playbook as her office first announced a sweeping cabinet shuffle via Twitter.
The changes were triggered by Jerome Kennedy’s resignation as finance minister last week and affect almost every cabinet post but health, education and justice.
Dunderdale said it’s a chance to move on from a rough patch of spending cuts and other moves that have seen her approval ratings plummet since taking over from former premier Danny Williams.
“We’re resetting now for the next two years,” she said after ministers were sworn in before Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan at Government House.
“It’s a good time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going over the next two years.”
Dunderdale defended her track record and touted the fact that provincial economic forecasts are the envy of other parts of Canada. Despite glowing consumer confidence measures, however, successive polls have suggested deepening voter disdain for her administration.
“I’m really proud of the work our government is doing,” Dunderdale said. “But it is good to change it up and to change the dial sometimes when you get focused on having a conversation that’s about the past rather than about the future.”
Kennedy stepped down last week to return to practising law. He played down any suggestion that he was leaving because of a personal rift with Dunderdale or due to bleak poll results.
The seat held by Kennedy, Carbonear-Harbour Grace, is vacant but Dunderdale has not said when a byelection will be called.
Tom Marshall, who was appointed to take on Kennedy’s job in an acting capacity, now takes back the portfolio he has held before.
Marshall leaves his post as natural resources minister, a position to be taken up by former fisheries minister Derrick Dalley.
Other changes include Keith Hutchings being named fisheries minister, Joan Shea appointed to environment, and Charlene Johnson becomes minister of innovation, business and rural development.
Two Progressive Conservative members – Dan Crummell and Steve Kent – were promoted from the backbenches to serve as minister of Service NL and municipal affairs minister, respectively.
The shuffle keeps a promise by Dunderdale in last spring’s cost-cutting budget to trim the cabinet to 15 ministers from 16.
The next provincial election is set for the fall of 2015.
There are 35 Progressive Conservative members, seven Liberals and five New Democrats in the legislature.
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