Cabinet shuffle: new finance minister, more Crowns for Hargrave

Joe Hargrave speaks to supporters during the 2016 election campaign. Herald file photo.

In a major cabinet shakeup, Premier Brad Wall has named a new finance minister and elevated five MLAs to fill spots left empty by those vying for his job.

“We have a balance here between some veterans and some new members,” Wall told reporters on Wednesday. “To me, this cabinet’s job is to provide stability for the government going forward, until a new premier is chosen in the new year.”

A number of senior ministers will be changing portfolios. Bronwyn Eyre will move from Advanced Education to Education to take over from Don Morgan, who is heading to Justice. But the biggest news is at Finance. Donna Harpauer, formerly of Government Relations, will replace Kevin Doherty.

Wall stressed that Doherty, who will now head Advanced Education, had asked for a reassignment.

“He indicated to me that he would be happy to serve in cabinet, if that was my choice, but he would rather take a break from finance,” Wall said.

Dustin Duncan will take over responsibility for the Global Transportation Hub, SaskPower and SaskWater. He’ll also replace outgoing Minister Scott Moe at Environment.

But Duncan will hand over SaskTel and SaskEnergy to Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave, who already oversees SGI and the Crown Investment Corporation.

Hargrave said his new duties are going to “make life very, very busy.” But he’s not complaining.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “The premier had the confidence in me to give me the additional workload. I’m very happy, very honoured.”

Hargrave said he’s excited work with some of the new faces in cabinet. Four MLAs are joining cabinet for the first time, with one ex-minister coming back to the table.

“I think it’s excellent choices,” he said, specifically commending the selection of Steven Bonk to replace leadership contender Jeremy Harrison at Economy.

“Steven Bonk has 25 years experience in trade and economic matters,” Hargrave said. “He’s going to be just fabulous.”

Hargrave said he’s going to sit down for briefings with the heads of his new Crown portfolios, and “get up to speed on both files.” SaskTel, in particular, has been in the news over rumblings about a potential partnership with private corporations. Hargrave said he plans to look at SaskTel’s performance, but that the Crown’s future will be “a government decision.”

The premier weighed in on that issue in his remarks to reporters. He said the government is now taking a harder look at Bill 40, proposed legislation that could open the Crowns up for a partial sale.

“We are even now looking at bill 40 the way it exists right now,” he said, adding that the party has heard public “concerns” about the Bill’s proposed redefinition of privatization.

“We are considering this fact, that this seems to be the view that MLAs have received from Saskatchewan people,” Wall said.

The NDP took specific aim at Hargrave in a press release bashing the shuffle. They said his oversight of the now-defunct STC bodes ill for SaskTel.

“By appointing Mr. Hargrave to oversee SaskTel, the Sask. Party is saying the fire sale is on,” interim leader Nicole Sarauer was quoted as saying. “During the last shuffle, Minister Hargrave was put in charge of STC and tasked with scrapping it. Now, he has been given even more Crowns, including SaskTel.”

Sarauer also criticized the gender imbalance in the new cabinet, which includes only four women. She said the cabinet is really just more of the same.

“Today, the Premier used words like ‘renewal’ but made it clear that it’s still the same tired, arrogant, and out-of-touch Sask. Party,” she said.