This is the second of three in The Political Animal’s look at last Monday’s substantial cabinet shuffle. Part one focused on Greg Byrne, Victor Boudreau, and Kelly Lamrock and can be found here. A third part will come tomorrow. We left off last time with the Greek tragedy that is Kelly Lamrock, so we’ll begin today with…
Roland Haché, the new Education Minister. Haché comes to education from the Environment Department where, to be honest, he was mostly invisible. I didn’t even remember he was Environment Minister until Monday evening. That’s partly a function of how low a priority the environment is to the government (especially with the whole economic “Self-Sufficiency” credo) but also a function of how the environment has fallen of the map of political issues in today’s Economic S**tshow.
That said, Haché earned a record in Environment – a good one – primarily because of his last announcement as Environment Minister, a ban on the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides. The ban came after public consultation last summer supported the cosmetic pesticide ban over pesticide education, a voluntary ban, and a ban on all pesticides, cosmetic or not. Everyone, even the PCs, agree with the ban.
His smooth handling of a potentially contetious issue (visit most municipal council chambers when the discussion comes up) is the reason why he’s the new Education Minister. This issue makes him look like the anti-Lamrock: conciliatory instead of contentious, a listner rather than a fighter, and much more humble than his predecessor. Even during his first week he started to repair one bridge in the department by freezing the controversial Intensive Learning Fund, with speculation growing that the entire fund may be redirected to keep 300 school support and librarian jobs. Another reason why Haché finds himself in education may have to do Lamrock’s last major act as education minister, the release of a report into the Francophone school system. The government may think it’s better to have a francophone act on the report, which recommends more standardized testing and more recruitment from mixed-language families.
Haché’s responsabilities: improve the French school system, and find a solution to the ILF/Support Worker issue that won’t cause mass panic and concern after Labour Day.
T. J. Burke to Environment. Not even the moves of Lamrock and Mike Murphy were as necessary and as painfully obvious as Burke’s, and no minister got anywhere near as serious a demotion as the former Attorney-General. Burke’s problems began in March, when a UNB law student filed an affidavit alleging Burke said to the wrongfully convicted Erin Walsh “had once killed a man” and was addicted to drugs at the time of his arrest for murder. Now dying of colon cancer, Walsh is suing, among others, the Attorney-General of New Brunswick for his wrongful convistion on that murder charge. Shawn Graham immediately took Burke off the Walsh case, whish effectively made Burke a lame-duck A-G. If you’re a lawyer and you’re taken off a case involving your own office, thet’s a pretty sure sign it won’t be your office much longer.
Still, the rumours were circulating that Burke would replace Lamrock in education and those rumours may just have come to fruition had Burke not gotten into an argument with a judge. But not just any judge, mind you, but the Hon. David Smith, Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench. In a speech to the Mocton Rotary Club, Smith criticized the government for eliminating small claims courts and cutting back family court social workers and legal aid. Smith was reluctant to make the remarks for fear of treading into that disreputable world of politics, but did so anyway because he thought the cuts would have a seriously bad effect on the justice system. Burke, predictably, criticized to law enforcer for critizing the lawmakers, but went a step or two too far in doing so. Discussing Smith’s idea of a more independant court system with more judicial control, as the Republic of Ireland has, Burke said “If chief justice Smith thinks it’s so great in Ireland, then, then, maybe they need a judge over in Ireland. I don’t know.”
Burke also felt the heat over the appointment of his former law partner and stepfather to the board of WorkSafe NB despite the opposition of said board, but it likely didn’t play a role in his shuffle. Rather, his impolitic and immature comments about one of the province’s most prominent judges sealed his move to Environment, a department where he only has to shut up and not let anything get out of hand. Nobody at 706 Queen Street really cares much for environmental initiatives right now, anyway. Besides, Burke should try to shore up support in his riding of Fredericton-Nashwaaksis, which he only won by 157 votes last time around. His latest gaffes would not have won him any support.
Sunday, part 3 of Cabinet Shuffles will feature Michael Murphy and Mary Schryer.