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Premier announces cabinet shuffle

Two days into the new fiscal year, the premier is rearranging his cabinet.

Premier Bob McLeod announced a cabinet shuffle Wednesday. Caroline Cochrane (bottom row, third from the left), the minster of Municipal and Community Affairs, and Alfred Moses (second row, fifth from the right), the minister of Education, Culture and Employment, are switching portfolios.
photo courtesy of the Legislative Assembly

On Wednesday, Caroline Cochrane, the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, and Alfred Moses, who oversees Education Culture and Employment, swapped portfolios.

Moses will also take responsibility for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, Homelessness and the Workers Safety and Compensation Commission of the NWT and Nunavut, which were all previously under Cochrane's authority.

Minister Robert C. McLeod will take over the Northwest Territories Power Corporation from Minister Louis Sebert.

Sebert was the only minister to lose a confidence vote during the midterm review of cabinet members' performance in October. He will remain at the helm of Justice and Lands departments and transparency and public engagement.

It is unclear what prompted the cabinet shuffle, and why the premier chose these reassignments. The premier did not make himself available for an interview.

“As we enter the last full fiscal year of the 18th Legislative Assembly, our government remains committed to fulfilling the commitments we set out at the beginning of our term,” stated McLeod in press release issued Wednesday.

“The changes being made today will help ensure that our cabinet team is well-positioned to achieve success and deliver on our priorities in the remaining months.”

Moses faced significant public backlash after shutting down the social work and bachelor of education programs at Aurora College, and launching a controversial review of the institution's governance and programming.

“I know it's not a lone decision, but he's the one that had to answer for it,” Tom Beaulieu, MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh said Wednesday. “That was something that gave him a lot of challenges.”

In Beaulieu's view, the decision to end the existing social work program at Aurora College “essentially meant that most of the social workers would come from the south, and I always felt that putting your own social workers into the communities would be a way to resolve a lot of the social ills.”

Beaulieu added that the roll-out of territory-wide Junior Kindergarten ended up costing regional education authorities and could have been handled better.

The regular MLA had words of praise for Cochrane, whom he said “performed very well” as head of the housing corporation and MACA.

With the housing file, said Beaulieu, Cochrane made an effort to develop programs from the ground up that addressed the specific of each community.

“I'm hoping that she brings that type of thinking into the Department of Education,” he said.

This is the second change-up for Cochrane. The Range Lake MLA was in charge of Public Works and Services before she was handed MACA in September of 2016.

Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, expressed her pleasure at Cochrane's reassignment over Twitter.

“This is great news: @CochraneYK has been a strong Housing minister. Now let's hope she can provide that same level of 'thinking outside of the box' to ECE,” she wrote.

Neither Cochrane nor Moses was made available for an interview before Friday's print deadline.

The premier also announced Wednesday the appointment of Catherine MacQuarrie to deputy secretary, federal engagement in the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs.

According to a government statement issued this morning, MacQuarrie has more than 20 years of experience as a federal civil servant.

MacQuarrie, who is Metis and was raised in NWT, will be based out of the GNWT office in Ottawa.