Thom is deputy premier and health minister, Wawzonek takes finance and justice in NWT cabinet

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Premier Caroline Cochrane announced her government’s cabinet roles Tuesday morning and officially marked a national first: it’s Canada’s first made mostly of women.

In a news release, she said that she was “pleased to welcome a new Cabinet that includes – for the first time in Canada and the Northwest Territories – a majority of women Cabinet Ministers.” Cochrane herself will be the Minister of Executive and Indigenous Affairs.

Through the new cabinet, she reiterated a previous promise to deliver a “progressive” agenda to the Territory’s residents. The ministers’ new roles take effect at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Many of the positions remain unchanged from the last government, though there’s no longer a Minister of Transparency.

Caroline Wawzonek of Yellowknife South will take two high profile cabinet positions as the Minister of Finance and of Justice. A lawyer by trade, Wawzonek’s pitch to colleagues included opening up lines of communication with the public service and other MLAs.

On problem solving, she told fellow MLAs on Oct. 24 that her “role isn’t necessarily to come up with the solutions. It’s to go out and help people find those solutions and bring them forward.”

Her final major commitment when vying for a cabinet seat was “fair processes and reasonable decision-making.”

Sahtu MLA Paulie Chinna will head the Territory’s housing and homelessness efforts, in addition to the Municipal and Community affairs portfolio. She’s the first woman to represent the constituency and during her cabinet nomination speech, she called for action on working with Indigenous leadership, healthcare, education, and economic diversification.

She said her highest priority was “imperative” work with Indigenous governments, that necessitated “that we start dealing with them and recognizing them as partners and no longer clients.”

Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby will become Minister of Infrastructure and Minister of Industry Tourism and Investment. She will also oversee the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission.

Speaking on Oct. 24, Nokleby, an engineer, acknowledged she may “be sort of labelled as the economic candidate or the economic person or the infrastructure person.” However, Nokleby insisted she would be balanced and was capable of working with Indigenous governments to boost economic activity and industry across the Territory.

She also called for focus on incentive’s Northern retention and business operations, and also referenced her background as an environmental engineer capable of responding to the challenges of climate change.

Hay River North MLA and former premier hopeful R.J. Simpson was named Government House Leader and minister of Education. He will also be responsible for the Public Utilities Board.

After making his premiership bid, Simpson staked out his claim to his new portfolio, saying “education is freedom” and key to broader economic participation. On the file, he called to address low attendance rates dogging the school system and action on mental health.

He also noted justice issues, saying therapeutic models were “promising,” and added that housing had to be addressed after 150 residents lost their homes when a high-rise in Hay River recently closed.

Inuvik Boot Lake’s Diane Thom will serve as Cochrane’s deputy premier and minister of Health and Social Services, in addition to acting as the minister responsible for both the status of women and people living with disabilities.

Before serving as the chief negotiator on behalf of the Inuvialuit, Thom has held a variety of health positions: nuit representative on the National Inuit Committee on Health, in addition to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“My role was to set strategies and plan policy-driven health priorities for the North,” she said, adding that she also helped developed specific strategies for each community under the Northwest Territories Community Wellness Plans.

Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson will be the new Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, and will also take over as Minister of Lands and the minister responsible for both youth and seniors.

Returning for his second term in Assembly, Thompson expounded on his communication ability and pointed to past work as chair of the social issues committee and collaboration with the previous government.

He called to spur business activity, settle land claims and legislate a senior’s candidate.

 

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