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Manitoba splits health portfolio, province has new minister of mental health

Click to play video: 'Manitoba’s cabinet shuffle' Manitoba’s cabinet shuffle
Premier Brian Pallister has expanded his cabinet and made some significant changes including splitting the health minister's job in two, and adding new justice, education and families ministers as well. Brittany Greenslade breaks down some of the top changes. – Jan 5, 2021

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has moved his health minister as part of a cabinet shuffle that will see the inner circle grow by three members.

Cameron Friesen is being moved from health to justice, and is being replaced by two ministers who will split health duties.

Heather Stefanson moves from the families portfolio to become minister of health and seniors care., and Audrey Gordon moves up from the backbenches to the new cabinet post of minister for mental health, wellness and recovery.

The shuffle comes after recent opinion polls have suggested that support for the governing Tories has dropped sharply.

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Manitoba was hit hard by the pandemic’s second wave and, for much of the fall, led all other provinces in per-capita infection rates.

Read more: Manitoba premier says his focus is on beating coronavirus, not dismal polling numbers

Two other backbenchers who are being promoted to cabinet are Derek Johnson, minister for municipal relations, and Wayne Ewasko, minister for advanced education, skills and immigration.

A few current ministers are also switching jobs.

Kelvin Goertzen moves from education to a new portfolio called legislative and public affairs.

Cliff Cullen moves from justice to education.

The number of cabinet ministers rises to 18 from 15.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Manitoba health minister addresses absence from COVID-19 updates' Coronavirus: Manitoba health minister addresses absence from COVID-19 updates
Coronavirus: Manitoba health minister addresses absence from COVID-19 updates – Dec 21, 2020

Pallister hinted at the shuffle last month in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, in which he said potential changes include adding a second health minister to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The shuffle comes after recent opinion polls have suggested that support for the governing Tories has dropped sharply.

Manitoba was hit hard by the pandemic’s second wave and, for much of the fall, led all other provinces in per-capita infection rates.

Testing capacity and contact tracing initially failed to keep up with demand as case numbers spiked. Long-term care homes were hit by outbreaks and the number of deaths rose exponentially.

Read more: Manitoba premier eyes added health minister during second wave of coronavirus

In November, Health Minister Cameron Friesen accused doctors of causing chaos after 200 physicians and other scientists wrote a letter to the premier that said the health-care system was being overwhelmed.

Since then, Friesen has been less visible. Pallister, not Friesen, has held most of the news conferences on the government’s pandemic response, along with the province’s chief public health officer.

Click to play video: 'Health Minister Cameron Friesen criticized for comments about Manitoba doctors' Health Minister Cameron Friesen criticized for comments about Manitoba doctors
Health Minister Cameron Friesen criticized for comments about Manitoba doctors – Nov 4, 2020

Pallister won a second consecutive majority mandate in 2019 and the next provincial election is slated for October 2023.

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Manitoba had two health ministers under the former NDP government. One was dedicated to seniors and promoting healthy living.

Read more: NDP slams Manitoba health minister over comments that province’s doctors ‘creating chaos’

In Ontario, one of two health ministers is dedicated to long-term care.

In British Columbia, one is focused on mental health and addictions.

Click to play video: '2020 in review: Brian Pallister' 2020 in review: Brian Pallister
2020 in review: Brian Pallister – Dec 31, 2020

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