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Goertzen shuffled to education portfolio

By: Grant Burr

Posted: 08/2/2018 9:27 AM

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Briefing sessions await Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen as he gets some schooling in how to handle new responsibilities as the province’s education minister.

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister shuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, moving Goertzen from the health portfolio which he has held since the Progressive Conservatives formed government in 2016.

Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen takes over the health file from Goertzen, switching from his role in finance.

"I have great confidence in Cam," Goertzen said yesterday. "I can hardly think of anybody better."

"I recognize that health is an emotional job," he added. "I learned a lot and worked some fantastic people here."

Goertzen spoke positively about his own move too, which was announced on Wednesday afternoon at the Manitoba Legislature. Goertzen himself learned of the move the previous day.

The local MLA said the premier expressed confidence to him in how the government has begun implementing changes in the health care system, something that Goertzen will now be tasked with in the province’s education system.

Plans for an education review have been in the works for some time. Goertzen won’t be alone to take on the task, however. Former education minister Ian Wishart will now serve as legislative assistant to Goertzen and has been handed the responsibility of co-ordinating the review of kindergarten to Grade 12 education.

He acknowledged that it is unusual for a former minister to remain connected to a particular department. While he surmised that type of scenario could prove contentious, he maintained that he expected a good working relationship with Wishart, knowing his colleague’s personality.

With a school-aged child of his own, Goertzen sees importance in the review process that lays ahead. In particular, he noted Manitoba’s standing in comparison to other areas of the country.

"Part of the review is why are our children doing more poorly," he said.

Direction will emerge through stakeholder feedback, he said, suggesting it was too early to comment on possible changes to the size of school divisions, education funding, and provincial curriculum.

Curriculum has been a contentious topic in Ontario in recent weeks as the Progressive Conservative government has proposed changes to the way sexual education is taught in schools.

Goertzen said on that front that Manitoba does a good job already between allowing for opt out provisions for students, while also allowing for religious exercises and instruction in schools.

"I think we strike the right balance in Manitoba and we’ll look to maintain that," he said.

St Vital MLA Colleen Mayer was a new addition to cabinet as the new minister of Crown services.

No other Southeast MLAs were given responsibilities in cabinet in Wednesday’s shuffle.

In addition to his new education responsibilities, Goertzen will also serve as government house leader.

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