WINNIPEG: Today, Manitoba’s Premier Heather Stefanson shuffled her Cabinet in advance of the October election. 2023 has brought significant changes for the Government of Manitoba. As of today, Stefanson has announced a new Clerk of the Executive Council, Kathryn Gerrard, Chief of Staff, Brad Salyn and Director of Communications, Braeden Jones.

About a third of the PC caucus have announced they won’t be running in the next election. Most recently, former Minister of Finance Cameron Friesen announced he would be stepping down to seek the federal Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) nomination in Portage-Lisgar, where former CPC Interim Leader Candice Bergen has said she won’t be running again. Friesen’s announcement came the Friday before the shuffle – just days before he was scheduled to begin in-person Budget consultations, prompting the cancellation of the first consultation in Winnipeg.

Premier Stefanson indicated today that a Deputy Minister shuffle is also forthcoming.

Who’s new:

The new faces in Cabinet include:

  • Janice Morley-Lecomte (MLA for Seine River) as Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness;
  • James Tietsma (MLA for Radisson) becomes Minister of the reframed Department of Consumer Protection and Government Services;
  • Kevin Klein (MLA for Kirkfield Park) will serve as Minister of the refreshed Department of Environment and Climate Change;
  • Obby Khan (MLA for Fort White) becomes the Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage.

The first three come from Winnipeg and are in battleground seats that the NDP will target. The fourth, Obby Khan, comes from a safe seat and is notably Manitoba’s first-ever Muslim MLA and Minister.

Who Stays:

Remaining in their existing Cabinet posts are:

  • Kelvin Goertzen (MLA for Steinbach) will continue to serve as Minister of Justice and Attorney General
  • Rochelle Squires (MLA for Riel) remains the Minister of Families
  • Audrey Gordon (MLA for Southdale) will continue to serve as Minister of Health
  • Wayne Ewasko (MLA for Lac du Bonnet) will remain as Minister of Education and Early Childhood Learning
  • Derek Johnson (MLA for Interlake-Gimli) will continue to serve as Minister of Agriculture

Notable changes:

  • Deputy Premier Cliff Cullen (MLA for Spruce Woods) retains the position of Deputy Premier and moves out of Economic Development, Investment and Trade and into the Ministry of Finance, replacing Cameron Friesen (MLA for Morden-Winkler)
  • Jeff Wharton (MLA for Red River North) returns to a previous portfolio as Minister of Economic Development, Investment and Trade
  • Jon Reyes (MLA for Waverley) will continue to serve in Cabinet as Minister of Labour and Immigration
  • Elieen Clarke (MLA for Agassiz) returns to the Department of Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations, as Alan Lagimodiere (MLA for Selkirk) steps back
  • Sarah Guillemard (MLA for Fort Richmond) leaves her post as Minister of Mental Health and Community Wellness and takes on a new portfolio of Advanced Education and Training, replacing Jon Reyes (MLA for Waverley)
  • Andrew Smith (MLA for Lagimodiere) will continue to hold on to the MBLL portfolio but assumes a new ministerial portfolio and will lead the Department of Municipal Affairs

Who’s out:

No longer in Cabinet are:

  • Reg Helwer (MLA for Brandon West)
  • Cameron Friesen (MLA for Morden-Winkler)
  • Alan Lagimodiere (MLA for Selkirk)

While resignations have fueled doom-and-gloom headlines about the government’s prospects, most of the MLAs are retiring after more than 20 years in politics, rather than seeking other opportunities. While they represent a significant loss of experience for the PC bench, most of the resignations have happened in safe Tory seats that are not realistically in play for the NDP. That’s the good news for the PCs – but unfortunately, these seats are bound to trigger some contentious nomination meetings that could distract PC resources from the target seats they need to protect from NDP challengers.

The NDP have consistently led the polls since the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but these numbers have not resulted in a change on the ground, as the PCs managed to hold on to seats in two by-elections in 2022. The 2023 election will be an important test for the NDP, with caucus, candidates and staff with limited experience going up against a PC government with the largest back-to-back majority governments in Manitoba’s history.

A full list and biographies of Cabinet members can be found here.

The next provincial election in Manitoba is scheduled for October 3, 2023.

Insights provided by Logan Ross, Leezann Freed-Lobchuk, and Counsel’s Western Practice Team. For more information contact:

Logan Ross
Senior Vice President