WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s incoming premier, Brian Pallister, has a balancing act on his hands today as he names the first Progressive Conservative cabinet in Manitoba since 1999.
Having won a modern-day record 40 seats in the April 19 election, Pallister may leave many caucus members disappointed because he has promised a cabinet one-third smaller than the outgoing NDP’s, which had 19 members.
Add to that the political necessity of finding cabinet ministers to represent the province’s diverse population and geography, analysts say, and it’s a daunting task.
“In a cabinet this small, it’ll probably be one of the toughest challenges that Brian Pallister will face early on in his term,” Karine Levasseur, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba, said Monday.
“He’s going to have to balance the veterans with the newcomers because there are so many newcomers,” said Royce Koop, Levasseur’s colleague and department head.
Widely expected to make cabinet are Tories who have been in the legislature for a decade or more, including Kelvin Goertzen, who has served as justice critic and the party’s house leader, and Heather Stefanson, the party’s deputy leader.
Steven Fletcher, a former member of Parliament for the federal Conservatives, is also one of the experienced politicians in the new Tory caucus.
The longest-serving Tory, Myrna Dreidger, will not be in cabinet because the Tories are aiming to have her chosen as legislature Speaker May 16.
Manitoba premiers traditionally try to have one minister from Brandon — the province’s second-largest city — and the Tories hold both seats there under Reg Helwer, first elected in 2011, and newcomer Len Isleifson, who recently served on city council.
The Tories won only one of four seats in the province’s north, and both Koop and Levasseur expect Kelly Bindle, a civil engineer from Thompson, to get a cabinet seat.
The Tories’s biggest election-night gains came in Winnipeg, and both academics expect a few rookies from the city are possible cabinet contenders — Cathy Cox, a former party staff member; Scott Fielding, a former city councillor; and Jon Reyes, a navy veteran and business owner with strong connections in the Filipino community.
As for gender balance, Pallister has already said it is something he is aiming for but will take time, because he inherited a caucus in 2012 which was predominantly male.
The new Tory cabinet will be sworn in at the Canadian Museum For Human Rights.