Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister was sworn in as Manitoba Premier on Tuesday and fulfilled an election promise to appoint a smaller cabinet.
The new Premier appointed eight men and four women – a mixture of veterans and rookies – to his inner circle. He pledged to work hard after the April 19 election that saw the Tories oust an NDP government that had been in power for 17 years.
"The responsibility we assume today is to leave Manitoba an even better place than we found it," Mr. Pallister said at the swearing-in ceremony at the Canadian Museum For Human Rights. "Our goal is to replace doubt with optimism, disharmony with unity and fear with hope."
Mr. Pallister's cabinet has six fewer ministers than that of former premier Greg Selinger. Some ministerial titles have been discarded or merged with others.
There is no longer a stand-alone minister for labour. The portfolio has been merged with economic development under the new title of Growth, Enterprise and Trade.
Separate ministries for municipal affairs and aboriginal affairs have been merged into Indigenous and Municipal Relations.
The titles of healthy living, as well as children and youth opportunities, have been swallowed up by larger departments.
The Opposition NDP and the Liberals both said the loss of separate departments for labour, aboriginal affairs and other matters is worrisome. "Things which I believe are important to Manitobans may not be given the same priority," New Democratic MLA Andrew Swan said.
Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari criticized the lack of visible minorities and any member from the province's north.
Among the top appointments is Cameron Friesen, the long-time finance critic, who is now Finance Minister. He is responsible with preparing a budget expected early next month and said his first job is to find out whether the deficit has grown beyond the $773-million announced by the NDP in March.
"There's a lot of discovery that remains to be done," he said.
A few weeks is not a lot of time to prepare a budget, but Mr. Friesen said the Tory government will put its stamp on the fiscal plan with an eye to controlling spending. "We will be making our mark and we will be steering this course in the right direction from the get-go."
Other top appointments include long-time justice critic Kelvin Goertzen in Health and deputy party leader Heather Stefanson as Deputy Premier and Justice Minister.
Ian Wishart is Minister of Education, Ron Schuler will oversee Crown services, Ralph Eichler takes on Agriculture, Cliff Cullen becomes Minister of Growth, Enterprise and Trade and Blaine Pedersen has been appointed Minister of Infrastructure.
Former Winnipeg city councillor Scott Fielding is among the rookies and has been named Minister of Families. Rochelle Squires, a former journalist and Tory staffer, takes on a raft of roles as Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage, Minister responsible for the Status of Women and Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs.
Ms. Squires does not speak French, but said she will work hard to support the francophone community.
"I can assure them that in me, they have a strong advocate."
Steven Fletcher, a former member of Parliament for the federal Conservatives, was among the 27 Tories left out of cabinet. Mr. Pallister had to choose from the largest majority government in the province in a century. His Tories took 40 of the 57 legislature seats on election night.