ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Hours after Andrew Furey was sworn in as Newfoundland and Labrador’s 14th premier Wednesday, he shuffled prominent cabinet portfolios, including finance, and expanded the scope of the natural resources department to include the technology sector.
“This is a new cabinet for a new time,” Furey told reporters outside Government House in St. John’s.
The surgeon and charity CEO comes from a political family, but he is new to public office. He was elected Liberal leader Aug. 3 and replaces Dwight Ball, who stepped down in the winter.
Furey, the son of Senate Speaker George Furey, was sworn in during a ceremony in St. John’s Wednesday morning. His father, relatives and well-known business partners, Alan Doyle and Brendan Paddick, were among the guests to watch him assume office.
Furey does not hold a seat in the legislature but three of the 20 elected Liberals, including Ball, have indicated they will not seek re-election.
The new premier hinted he’s interested in running for Ball’s Humber-Gros Morne district and said he will talk with members about a possible byelection in the next few days.
“I’m not going to tell you all my secrets here today, but I will tell you I had a great time over the weekend in Gros Morne,” Furey said.
He inherits a troubling financial situation in Newfoundland and Labrador, with officials attributing a $2.1-billion deficit to falling oil prices and pandemic-related spending.
The new premier will face the likelihood of rising electricity rates due to cost overruns from the Muskrat Falls dam and will have to manage a struggling offshore oil and gas industry.
His government is due to present a budget in September. And it will be Siobhan Coady — who was moved to finance Wednesday from her previous role in natural resources — who will present it.
Coady, an ex-MP and former chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said she is “challenged and invigorated” taking on the finance job under a new premier who she said wants to grow the economy in new directions after this year’s hurdles.
“We all know it’s difficult,” Coady told reporters. “We’ve got to look forward to the future and make some long-term arrangements about how we’re going to grow and develop out of these challenges — and I know we can.”
Furey said Coady’s connections and experience in Ottawa with be an asset in the job. Coady said she will work with the federal government to secure funding for the oil and gas industry and support with electricity rates.
In his speech after being sworn in, the new premier spoke about the province’s imminent challenges.
“We all know the toughest decisions lie ahead,” Furey said.
He said he’s optimistic about the province’s potential despite the fact, he said, some have suggested his new job is like “being made captain of the Titanic after hitting an iceberg.”
“COVID, unfortunately, has hit us at a time when our economy is also on its knees,” Furey said. “But this is also a moment at which we can take a hard look at where we are and see it through the lens of where we want to go.”
He said he wants to move away from a “boom and bust” economy and to listen to expertise from around the province before making governing decisions.
“I call on our brightest minds to take a seat at the table,” he said. “Help us redefine ourselves.”
Furey expanded the natural resources portfolio to include the technology industry and changed its name to the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology. He moved Andrew Parsons from the Justice Department to the new cabinet position.
Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote addressed the outdoor crowd during the morning’s swearing in ceremony with brief remarks about the need for strong leadership and collaboration to help the province reach its full potential.
“Premier Furey, you know about leadership having held many roles where it was required,” Foote said. “Leadership and teamwork.”
“You now have another opportunity to continue to do both, where I dare say you will be watched much more closely because of the impact your leadership will have on our province and our people.”
The premier must win a legislative seat within the next twelve months. He has indicated does not plan to call a general election before the end of 2020 and that he intends to run for the next seat that becomes available.
Ball won a minority government in 2019. There are currently 20 Liberal members in the legislature, 15 Progressive Conservatives, three New Democrats and two Independents.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2020.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press