If this were a sports team, you might say the provincial Liberals have a deep bench.
Much has been made of the good fortune Premier Stephen McNeil enjoys in having so many veteran MLAs from whom to select members for Cabinet. Freshly sworn in as the new premier, McNeil announced on Tuesday that team of 16 cabinet posts.
The wealth of experience is a really big deal. The Liberals haven’t been in power in Nova Scotia since 1999. Many a provincial government across the country has got off to a rocky start after being freshly swept into office simply for lack of that deep bench, and the need to hand a portfolio to people with relatively little experience. Occasionally, recovering from the stumbles can be difficult because of the intense spotlight.
Fortunately, with plenty of members having sat in the legislature the past several years, McNeil has greatly improved his odds on that score.
Still, the new government will face stiff challenges.
Obviously, Karen Casey, the new minister of education, will be under scrutiny simply because tight budgets for schools has been such a sensitive topic. Nothing has changed regarding shrinking school population, nor does this province have any sudden, new-found wealth. Making fiscal ends meet while keeping a promise to cap classroom sizes will be tricky.
Likewise, the health portfolio handed to Leo Glavine will have its challenges, as the party has said it would reduce the number of health authorities to two from the current 10. Obviously that won’t sit well with everyone.
And then there’s the Nova Scotia Power issue and the aim to end its monopoly. Andrew Younger is energy minister – good luck on that one.
On a more local note, Pictou County will have to sit this one out, as far as any excitement goes surrounding the naming of cabinet members. All three seats in the county were won by Progressive Conservatives – who we expect will serve this area, the province and their party well in the role of critics.