A major restructuring of the Saskatchewan government began Friday when Premier Brad Wall made a cabinet shuffle that saw only two ministers keep their portfolios.
Mr. Wall said the restructuring fits with the government’s plan for growth.
“Our government has long had a vision for growth that’s informed what we’ve done, so that we can see the province’s population continue to grow and jobs being created for Saskatchewan people,” Mr. Wall said after the shuffle was announced.
“But I think there’s some more work to be done in this regard in terms of sustaining the growth and being better ready for the challenges of growth in the province.”
Mr. Wall said he’ll release the second phase of the Saskatchewan Party’s long-term vision for the province this fall.
The biggest change is the creation of a new Ministry of the Economy. It will unite a number of economic agencies and functions including Enterprise Saskatchewan, Innovation Saskatchewan, Tourism Saskatchewan, employment, immigration, trade, energy and resources.
Bill Boyd, a Saskatchewan Party veteran, is leaving his post as energy minister to head up the new super-sized Ministry of the Economy.
“If we want our government to be about growth, it should function in that way. It should be set up in that way,” said Mr. Wall.
Tim MacMillan becomes the new minister responsible for Energy and Resources, which becomes part of the Ministry of the Economy. Mr. MacMillan’s post will be subordinate to Mr. Boyd’s.
Asked who will call the shots in the ministry, Mr. Wall joked: “Bill would Bill and Tim would say Bill.”
Saskatchewan’s economy has been a national bright spot during the recent economic downturn.
Data released in April by Statistics Canada showed Saskatchewan’s economic growth in 2011 was its fastest in almost 15 years. The province’s gross domestic product grew by 4.8 per cent, second highest in the nation after Alberta and the best performance since the first year of this statistic in 1997.
Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate in March 2012 was 4.8 per cent. The province’s jobless rate was the lowest in the country and well below the national unemployment rate of 7.2 per cent.
Another big promotion in the cabinet shuffle was given to Dustin Duncan, who moves from environment to health.
“The briefings will begin and the briefing binders, I’m sure, have already been sent over to the office. Frankly, I’m looking forward to that,” said Mr. Duncan.
“For me, being a cabinet minister the last three years in many ways has felt like being in university, picking up a book and just finding out something that you don’t know about. So, I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
Mr. Duncan bumps Don McMorris, who had been health minister since the Saskatchewan Party government took power in 2007. Mr. McMorris moves to highways.
Two people staying put are Ken Krawetz, deputy premier and finance minister, and June Draude, who continues as minister of social services. Mr. Krawetz, Ms. Draude and Mr. Boyd were among the founding members of the Saskatchewan Party.
Three MLAs enter cabinet for the first time: Gord Wyant takes over from Don Morgan as minister of Justice and Attorney General, Russ Marchuk becomes Minister of Education and Kevin Doherty will head up parks, culture and sport.
Other big news includes who’s out. Seven MLAs were dumped from cabinet including Rob Norris, who had been advanced education and immigration minister.
Bob Bjornerud, the longtime and well-liked agriculture minister, said in March he no longer wanted to be in cabinet so he could spend more time with his family. Lyle Stewart takes over his portfolio.
Bill Hutchinson, who faced criticism over the cut of the film tax credit in the budget, is also out at parks, culture and sport.
Mr. Wall said the shuffle was not based on merit or performance, but on giving others the opportunity to gain experience.
“These people that have been asked to take a break for a while have been excellent ministers and there’s every likelihood, every chance they could be back in cabinet,” he said.