HALIFAX: Strait area MLAs who were appointed ministers by former Premier Stephen McNeil, will remain in new Premier Iain Rankin’s cabinet.
Rankin was sworn in as Nova Scotia’s 29th Premier on Feb. 23 and he appointed a “revamped” 16-member cabinet, according to a press release from the Premier’s Office.
The cabinet includes the new Department of Infrastructure and Housing, and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism, the released stated, noting there is also a new Office of Mental Health and Addictions under the Department of Health and Wellness.
According to the Premier’s Office, several departments were renamed, “to reflect the premier’s focus on population growth, climate change and infrastructure.”
One of the revamped departments includes the Department of Transportation and Active Transit, with Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie MLA Lloyd Hines remaining as minister.
“We had the infrastructure renewal portion, which over four years had grown very significantly, in terms of responsibility. Essentially, it was the entire rebuild of the bricks and mortar health structure in the province,” Hines told The Reporter. “The decision was made to hive-off that piece from TIR, and create a new ministry, and add the department of housing piece, which was with municipal affairs, into infrastructure because it is infrastructure really, it’s also bricks and mortar.”
While losing some responsibilities, Hines said his department picked up others.
“We picked up the active transportation piece, which we can now house in our department, which also makes sense because it’s transportation,” he noted. “It’s a combination of stuff that had been in the Department of Energy, the Department of Culture and Heritage, and lands and forestry which will be coming to us and our responsibility over time.”
Because the Destination Reeves Street project was part of highway upgrades, Hines said they will be even more involved in that project.
“We’ll have hands-on control of that sort of thing,” he stated. “We have the experts in the department who understand those kinds of things.”
In addition to active transportation projects like walking trails and bike lanes, Hines said community transit will also be under his purview.
“Strait Area Transit system, that will be coming to us too, as we get things settled,” Hines said.
As for the Port Hastings Rotary project, Hines said the main goal is to eliminate bottlenecks when the Canso Canal opens to marine traffic and motorists can’t access Route 19.
“I’m really challenging the department to come up with a real good solution there, a significant solution that will meet the demands over time,” noted Hines. “I’m pushing the design people pretty hard to get this done. It might mean a little bit of delay on it, but we’ll get it started it this year, still.”
Hines said a big priority is to continue twinning Highway 104 to the Canso Causeway, and eventually the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
“We got to look to see how we can get to Cape Breton,” he said. “That’s definitely on the horizon, when we see how we finish this first piece here. We’re just starting to look out beyond 2023 and see what we’re going to do.”
Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey stepped down from the health portfolio last October to run for the Liberal leadership. He is now Attorney General and Minister of Justice, as well as Minister of Labour Relations.
Delorey said his department will continue its role as the interface with courts and the judicial system, as well as serving as legal counsel for government and government agencies.
The new Attorney General said he will be working with other ministers, like Tony Ince, as well as other departments and advisory boards on important topics such as increasing accessibility and working toward racial equality.
“There are a number of areas that fall under the purview of the Department of Justice, things like the Human Rights Commission, the work that we do with the accessibility legislation, there’s work around victim’s services, so there’s really a lot of social supports and services that get operated under the justice department,” he told The Reporter.
After his government was re-elected in 2017, the incoming administration made the Attorney General responsible for labour relations, Delorey noted.
“It’s not new to me, when I was at finance, I was responsible for labour relations as it related to contract negotiations,” he explained. “I have a relationship with many of the large labour groups through that time, but also as health minister, some of the largest groups of employees that are represented by labour associations are in the health care system.”
Although he is currently getting briefed on his new cabinet position, Delorey does not believe there are any looming contract negotiations with the province’s public sector unions.
“Many of them were established, some longer term contracts, a few years ago, that we’re still operating,” he stated. “Some of them went a little shorter, and a number of bargaining units, over the last year, year-and-a-half have entered into either extensions or new contracts.”