Hal Perry out, Tina Mundy, Robert Henderson in after P.E.I. cabinet shuffle

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 7, 2016

Hal Perry is no longer P.E.I.’s minister of education as part of a cabinet shuffle today at Government House.

Perry was the only minister to be shuffled out.

Doug Currie has replaced him as Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan firmly denied any suggestion Perry was removed over a concern over his performance in cabinet.

“You’re always working with the fit and the team to go forward. In the case of Minister Perry, what I’ve said and I say with all sincerity, we appreciate his leadership,” MacLauchlan said.

“He’s been through two legislative sessions… and, in fact, has been the focus of much of the attention and he has led the structural changes in educational governance. I absolutely appreciate the work that he has done in leading that work."

The premier noted education is undergoing major structural changes and that Currie has been provided with a mandate letter that has been “substantially revised” from the letter provided to Perry last May.

Currie, who formerly led both Health and Wellness and Family and Human Services, has been replaced by two returning faces to MacLauchlan’s cabinet.

O’Leary-Inverness MLA Robert Henderson, who served as tourism minister under Robert Ghiz’s administration and briefly under Maclauchlan’s leadership before the spring election was called, is now the province’s Minister of Health and Wellness.

He admits he was ‘shocked’ when he got the call from the premier Wednesday.

“I guess shocked would be the term,” he laughed.

“I really didn’t expect it. I wasn’t hearing any issues of shuffles or anything of that nature.”

He said when he first answered the phone, he thought it would be to cancel a trip to Colorado he was scheduled to take as the member of the legislative standing committee on agriculture.

“I was kind of surprised to get appointed to an executive council position.”

Henderson has been on the Liberal backbench since the provincial election and told The Guardian last fall he did not believe he would ever be back in cabinet.

Also returning to cabinet from the backbench is Summerside-St. Eleanor’s MLA Tina Mundy, who has been sworn in as Minister of Family and Human Services.

RELATED: P.E.I. MLA Tina Mundy resigns from cabinet

Mundy was originally named to cabinet after MacLauchlan’s Liberals won the May 4 election, but was removed one day later over a personal financial matter.

MacLauchlan says this has since been resolved and says he welcomes her return to his cabinet table.

“As a single mom, I’ve been working through financial issues for many, many years,” Mundy told reporters.

“I had to take a step back in May and address those issues and with the support of the premier, with the support of my family and with the support of hundreds, if not thousands, of Islanders I was able to address those challenges and so now I’m going to move forward.”

This marks MacLauchlan’s fourth cabinet swearing-in since first taking office last February, after the resignation of former premier Robert Ghiz.

Thursday’s cabinet shuffle also comes just seven months after the provincial election and increases the size of the provincial cabinet by one to a total of 10, including the premier.

MacLauchlan says he felt the beginning of a new year was a good time to refresh his executive council.

“We’re looking at our first opportunity to have 12 months to work together, we’ll have a couple of legislative sessions, we have a large policy agenda to develop and bring forward to the house,” MacLauchlan said.

“As we look at the economy of Canada and the world on a day by day basis, we can see that are large challenges for the government and, frankly, for the people to see that we as a government have a plan going forward into these 12 months and that we have the team that’s going to do that work.”

But Opposition Leader Jamie Fox says the multiple changes to MacLauchlan’s cabinet within the last year reflect what he believes is ‘disarray’ in government.

Fox also noted this latest shuffle grows the size of cabinet at a time when some programs and services are being cut.

“What we are hearing from the public and the public service is a concern that more and more power is being centralized in the premier’s hands,” Fox said in a statement.

“There’s also a growing sense that government is a one man show so who sits around the cabinet table doesn’t really matter.”