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Blaine Higgs sets record for most women in N.B. cabinet despite missing gender parity target

Click to play video 'Blaine Higgs reveals new-look New Brunswick cabinet' Blaine Higgs reveals new-look New Brunswick cabinet
WATCH: The New Brunswick PC government was sworn in, as Premier Blaine Higgs revealed his new cabinet on Tuesday. Higgs announced a significant number of changes with six of his 16 cabinet positions held by women. Megan Yamoah reports – Sep 29, 2020

Premier Blaine Higgs has missed out on having gender parity in his cabinet despite telling Global News that it was a priority.

Higgs revealed his new cabinet on Tuesday with a significant number of changes but with only six of his 16 cabinet positions held by women.

At the time of the legislature’s dissolution, there were only three women in his previous 16-member cabinet.

Jill Green is sworn in as New Brunswick’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure on Sept. 29, 2020.
Jill Green is sworn in as New Brunswick’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure on Sept. 29, 2020. Government of New Brunswick/HO

“Gender parity is going to play a key role,” Higgs told Global News the day after the election on Sept. 15, when asked whether gender parity would be a priority in his new cabinet.

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Having six women is still a record for the most ever in a New Brunswick cabinet.

Click to play video 'Blaine Higgs talks the future of New Brunswick after securing majority government' Blaine Higgs talks the future of New Brunswick after securing majority government
Blaine Higgs talks the future of New Brunswick after securing majority government – Sep 15, 2020

Saint John Harbour MLA Dorothy Shephard will now be in charge of the province’s health file. Shephard was previously Minister of Social Development.

Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton MLA Mary Wilson will fill the spot as Minister of Service New Brunswick and Minister responsible for Military Affairs.

Fredericton North MLA Jill Green has been appointed as the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. The rookie MLA was elected in the recent provincial vote.

Tammy Scott-Wallace, the newly elected MLA of Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins, has been named as the Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.

Click to play video 'N.B. premier Higgs says time spent serving the province about ‘building a better tomorrow’' N.B. premier Higgs says time spent serving the province about ‘building a better tomorrow’
N.B. premier Higgs says time spent serving the province about ‘building a better tomorrow’ – Sep 29, 2020

Read more: MLAs hope record-high number of women in house just the beginning

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Newly elected Carleton-Victoria MLA Margaret Johnson will take over as Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries.

New Brunswick Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Margaret Johnson is sworn in on Sept. 29, 2020.
New Brunswick Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Margaret Johnson is sworn in on Sept. 29, 2020. Government of New Brunswick/HO

Fellow first-time MLA Arlene Dunn of Saint John Harbour will fill the roles of Minister for Economic Development and Small Business, Minister of Opportunities NB and Minister responsible for Immigration.

On Tuesday, Higgs said that his goals remain unchanged despite the obstacle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our government has a plan to strengthen the economy, improve public services and enhance the quality of life for all New Brunswickers,” Higgs said.

“This will ensure that when we emerge from this pandemic, New Brunswick is stronger than ever.”

Click to play video '‘I want them at that table:’ N.B. Aboriginal Affairs minister says she wants Aboriginal population involved in decision making' ‘I want them at that table:’ N.B. Aboriginal Affairs minister says she wants Aboriginal population involved in decision making
‘I want them at that table:’ N.B. Aboriginal Affairs minister says she wants Aboriginal population involved in decision making – Sep 29, 2020

New minister at Aboriginal Affairs despite calls for Stewart to stay

Dunn replaces Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin MLA Jake Stewart as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Stewart was not given another post in Cabinet.

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The decision to replace Stewart comes despite calls from the Wolastoqey First Nation for Stewart to remain in the post.

Arlene Dunn is sworn in as New Brunswick’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Minister responsible for Economic Development and Small Business, Minister responsible for Opportunities NB and Minister responsible for Immigration on Sept. 29, 2020.
Arlene Dunn is sworn in as New Brunswick’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Minister responsible for Economic Development and Small Business, Minister responsible for Opportunities NB and Minister responsible for Immigration on Sept. 29, 2020. Government of New Brunswick/HO

Over the summer, Stewart had said he’d try to get Higgs to agree to a public inquiry into systemic racism in the province’s policing and justice systems.

That call had specifically come from the Wolastoqey Chiefs, who asked for an Indigenous-led inquiry into systemic racism within 30 days of a cabinet being sworn in.

Attention has been drawn to the issue of systemic racism in New Brunswick’s justice system after the deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi earlier this summer.

Moore was shot and killed by an Edmundston police officer who was performing a wellness check. Just weeks later, Levi was killed by RCMP officers who were responding to reports of a mental health crisis.

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Both incidents are being investigated by Quebec’s police watchdog, Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, but it could be months before the investigations wrap up.

Read more: Wolastoqey First Nation calls for racism inquiry, Jake Stewart to remain Indigenous affairs minister

Stewart released a statement on his Facebook page, saying he was not focused on the decision to not be included in cabinet.

“Systemic racism involves a culture of discrimination. The reality is that those who dare question the basis for the system in an effort to improve it, often get the harshest retribution from it,” Stewart said.

Dunn said she would not comment on the inquiry Tuesday but said that it is “imperative” to engage the province’s Aboriginal population in coming up with solutions for their communities.

Rounding out cabinet

Rothesay MLA Ted Flemming has been appointed as Minister of Justice and to the office of the Attorney General.

Flemming replaces Andrea Anderson-Mason who remains in the legislature but did not receive a cabinet appointment.

Ted Flemming is sworn in as New Brunswick’s Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Attorney General on Sept. 29, 2020.
Ted Flemming is sworn in as New Brunswick’s Minister of Justice and Public Safety and Attorney General on Sept. 29, 2020. Government of New Brunswick/HO

Another notable drop from the previous cabinet is New Maryland-Sunbury MLA Jeff Carr who served as Minister of Environment and Local Government.

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Those files have now been split in this current cabinet with Hampton MLA Gary Crossman being appointed as Minister of Environment and Moncton East MLA Daniel Allain — the party’s sole francophone — taking over the role of Minister of Local Government, which now includes the mandate of local governance reform.

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N.B. health minister says she would move ‘Heaven and Earth’ to get women the help they need on abortion – Sep 29, 2020

Portland-Simonds MLA Trevor Holder remains as the Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.

Riverview MLA Bruce Fitch has been named as Minister of Social Development.

Moncton Northwest MLA Ernie Steeves will stay on as Minister of Finance and the Treasury Board while Fredericton West-Hanwell MLA Dominic Cardy stays on as Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Saint John East MLA Glen Savoie will remain as Minister responsible for la Francophonie.

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Glen Savoie is sworn in as New Brunswick’s Minister responsible for la Francophonie.
Glen Savoie is sworn in as New Brunswick’s Minister responsible for la Francophonie. Government of New Brunswick/HO

Albert MLA Mike Holland will round out cabinet by remaining as Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development, although he will be sworn in at a later date.

Lt.-Gov. Brenda Murphy administered the oath of office to Higgs and the other members of his cabinet at 2 p.m. AT in Fredericton on Tuesday.

Read more: New Brunswick Liberals choose Roger Melanson as interim leader of Opposition

At least 25 seats are needed to form a majority government in the 49-seat legislature. Higgs’ PC government hold 27 seats in the legislature.

The other members of the legislature were sworn in on Monday.

Correction: This story originally identified Mary Wilson as the new Minister of Social Development. She will actually serve as Minister of Service New Brunswick and Minister responsible for Military Affairs while Bruce Fitch will serve as Minister of Social Development.