31 October 2007

Throne speech and budget promised within two weeks of winning leadership: Tom Rideout, 1989

Rideout called an election, but it's interesting to see how another premier handled the challenges of governing.

Rideout shuffles, trims cabinet to get ready for election call

March 28, 1989 

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) - With election rumors blowing through this frigid capital, Premier Tom Rideout took his first step toward government reform yesterday by naming a leaner cabinet and reorganizing departments.

Rideout appointed a 19-member cabinet - four fewer than the previous one - while assuming the duties of minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs and the status of women. The Tory premier also restructured six portfolios, turning them into three larger departments. One portfolio was expanded and one new department was created.

"I promised the people of Newfoundland a plan for the future and I mean to deliver," the 40-year-old premier told reporters. "I promised them a more efficient government and I plan to deliver, I promised them leadership into the 1990s and I mean to deliver."

The cabinet was sworn yesterday by Lt.-Gov. James McGrath five days after Rideout became the province's fourth premier, succeeding Brian Peckford. Despite his promise to fashion a new image for the governing Tories, Rideout brought in just two new cabinet ministers.

Newcomer James Hodder, 48, takes up the reorganized Department of Cultural Affairs, Tourism and Historic Resources, while 58-year-old Kevin Parsons leads the new Department of Sport, Recreation and Youth. Dropped from cabinet were Labor Minister Ted Blanchard and Mines Minister Jerome Dinn.

"A new leader, until he goes to the people, can only pick a cabinet from the people who are serving in the caucus," said Rideout when asked why there weren't more new faces in cabinet. "There's only 33 of us there and I can only pick a cabinet from them."

The big winners were those who strongly supported Rideout in the recent Tory leadership race, such as Lynn Verge, who becomes the first female deputy premier in Newfoundland in addition to retaining the justice portfolio. Rideout supporter Charles Brett moved from municipal affairs to head of the Treasury Board.

The four cabinet ministers who opposed Rideout during the leadership race also received senior posts. Former finance minister Neil Windsor takes over a revamped Energy and Mines Department. Len Simms, former head of the Treasury Board, was named development minister, Hal Barrett is finance minister, and Loyola Hearn retains the education portfolio.

With cabinet ministers just sworn in, Rideout also announced that he's canceled plans to call the legislature into special session this week to pass an interim financing bill. Instead, he intends to convene a regular session in mid-April which would include a throne speech and a budget. But Rideout, who represents the rural riding of Baie Verte-White Bay, left the door open for a snap election call.

"An election could be called at any time," he said. "The present government will begin its fifth year on the second of April and a new leader will obviously want to seek a new mandate at an early opportunity."

Asked whether he's made up his mind when to call an election, Rideout smiled and replied, "I have a plan."

Rumors of an impending election call have been fueled by recent meetings between Rideout and Tory organizer John Lashinger of Toronto. Lashinger ran Rideout's slick leadership campaign and helped Peckford win three consecutive electoral victories.

The Liberals and New Democrats are holding nomination meetings so that candidates will be in place when the election is called.