Why the NWT Premier switched up his ministers – in his words
On Wednesday, NWT Premier Bob McLeod made significant changes to his cabinet. Here, he explains his decisions to Cabin Radio.
Alfred Moses moves from the department of education, culture and employment to the department of municipal and community affairs, with Caroline Cochrane moving in the other direction.
Meanwhile, Robert C McLeod assumes responsibility for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation from Louis Sebert.
Cabin Radio’s Ollie Williams spoke with Premier McLeod on Thursday to find out more about the reasons for making these moves. Listen to the interview or read a full transcript below.
Ollie: Why did you decide to make these changes?
Premier Bob McLeod: This is something I was looking at doing for some time. I wanted to make sure that we were well-positioned to achieve success and to deliver on our priorities.
I think anyone could understand that. You want to make sure the territory is well-positioned. Why wasn’t the territory well-positioned with things as they were?
Things change as you go forward, the workload changes. I always think that it’s always good to refresh some portfolios, bring some new energy, and we have very strong, experienced ministers. I thought it was a good move to do so as we have got a lot of work ahead of us.
These are quite big departments we’re talking about. How wary were you, when you made these changes, of the fact you’ve got about a year and a half left of this government and your ministers will need a lot of time to catch up and understand their briefs?
Well, I guess I look at it differently. I think we’ve got experienced ministers, their learning curve is going to be fairly quick, and I think it’s just a matter of getting briefed up. I’m of the view that all of our ministers are very versatile, they can handle any responsibilities that are assigned to them.
How did the ministers react when you informed them of this? Was it a collaborative decision, did you talk to everybody first, or did you just tell them?
(Laughs.) I’m not that tough a taskmaster. I had good discussions with every minister as I do on a regular basis. I talked to them about work, what was coming forward, and I gave them an indication of what I was thinking of doing. This is a normal course of events.
Of course. Cabinet shuffles happen all the time. Having said that, in some quarters, this has already been painted as being essentially a demotion for Alfred Moses and a promotion for Caroline Cochrane. I wondered how much truth there is in that.
I don’t know who you’re talking to but in my view, all our ministers have done very well and these two ministers have done a very great job in fulfilling their responsibilities in the first half of this assembly. I think that they will continue to do good work and put their experience to continuing to do good work and fulfil their responsibilities.
With you having said that they were doing a really good job in their briefs, there might still be some people listening who think, well, why change then, with a year and a half left of the government? Is it purely because you felt that they needed freshening up? Were Alfred and Caroline falling asleep in meetings? What was the impetus there?
The way I look at it is we want to take advantage of opportunities available to us. As I told you, things change. As you go forward, workloads change. I want to make sure the workloads are balanced and I think, with this shuffle, we have improved the ability of our team to go forward and fulfil the majority, if not all of the commitments required to fulfil our mandate.
Whose workload changed?
Well you just have to look: the federal government is imposing some significant workloads on our part, for example just to introduce the legalization of cannabis in the NWT is going to take tremendous work. All of the changes that the federal government is doing with regard to improving programs and services to Indigenous people are certainly going to affect us, not only in housing but also in education and health. And also with this new climate change carbon pricing mechanism, that’s all going to create some tremendous work for all of us.
OK. A lot of that sounded like work for different departments, but anyway. The Power Corporation you also moved across. Is that because you see the minister for the Power Corporation needing to take a bigger role there?
Of course. Energy is an area that is probably the most heavily subsidized by our government and I want to make sure we provide energy effectively and efficiently, and also that we begin to move to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
Just lastly, I know that on Tuesday the applications closed for the vacant position of senator in the NWT. Did you send in an application?
No. I think someone asked me that. I’ve already got a job.
Well, I’ve already got a job, but if a nicer one opened up I might look at it…
(Laughs.) I’ll stick to that.