New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord has realigned his cabinet, created several new departments and brought in some fresh faces as he struggles to pull the province out of the economic doldrums.
Mr. Lord said yesterday the changes to his Progressive Conservative government are an effort to meet new five-year goals dealing with education, environment, taxes, poverty and wellness.
Mr. Lord, Premier since 1999, described the changes as a major restructuring and refocusing of his government.
"I want to make sure structures of the government and the ministers in place are focused on delivering for the people of New Brunswick," he said as he revealed the cabinet changes.
He has announced ambitious plans to head off an increasingly gloomy outlook for New Brunswick, based largely on its dwindling population and problems in such key sectors as forestry and manufacturing.
His plans include giving the province the lowest tax burden east of Alberta in an effort to attract people and investment.
He also hopes to have the biggest decrease in unemployment rates, the biggest increase in physical fitness, the biggest reduction in poverty and the biggest reduction in water and air pollution in Canada during the next five years.
"These objectives are ambitious and they will stretch us as a government and as a province, but we need to focus on them," Mr. Lord said at a news conference.
"We have big new opportunities ahead of us that we've never had before."
Kelly Lamrock, House Leader for the Opposition Liberals, said Mr. Lord's so-called "five-and-five plan" is only a publicity stunt.
"Maybe we should have a minister of optics, a minister of pretty folders and a minister of making everything blue because that's about the level of the five and five," he said.
Mr. Lamrock said Mr. Lord loves to make plans and set goals, usually for many years down the road, and the endless to-do lists save the government the effort of coming up with new ideas.
"He might as well have said every New Brunswicker will have a pony, the ponies will have ribbons and the entire province will be covered in whipped cream."
The next provincial election is expected by 2007.
Mr. Lord has created three new departments -- Environment, Wellness, and Post-Secondary Education and Training -- but has increased the size of cabinet by only one, to 18 members.
He has drawn on the Conservative back benches, naming three first-time ministers, while dropping veterans Elvy Robichaud, Peter Mesheau and Margaret-Ann Blaney who asked to be relieved of their cabinet duties.
The fresh faces include Claude Williams, who was named Minister of Education; Jody Carr, the Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Training; and Kirk MacDonald, the Minister of Business New Brunswick.
Two ministers who were forced to resign last year for breaching privacy rules were taken back into cabinet. Brenda Fowlie was named Minister of Energy, while Tony Huntjens is the new Speaker of the House.
Other key changes include the naming of cabinet veterans Brad Green as Health Minister and Bruce Fitch as Minister of Justice.