Derek Johnson named ag minister amidst Manitoba cabinet shuffle

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The first major cabinet shuffle under Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson’s watch was unveiled on Tuesday, and it includes a new face in the role of agriculture minister.

Derek Johnson, MLA for the rural riding of Interlake-Gimli, was sworn in as the new minister of agriculture, replacing Ralph Eichler.

Johnson is a former councillor for the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent, and worked in financial services prior to being elected to his first term as MLA in 2016.

The agriculture and resource development portfolio, previously held by Eichler, has also been split up, with Johnson taking the agriculture file. Winnipeg MLA Scott Fielding has been appointed minister of natural resources and northern development, and minister responsible for the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation.

Eichler, 71, was not given a cabinet post.

He served as the province’s agriculture minister from 2016 to 2019, before moving to the economic development portfolio. Former Premier Brian Pallister re-appointed Eichler to the agriculture minister role in July 2021. Prior to the PC Party forming government in 2016, Eichler served several stints as the party’s agriculture critic.

“KAP congratulates Derek Johnson on his appointment to cabinet as the Minister of Agriculture. As the MLA for Interlake-Gimli and as a former municipal councillor, Minister Johnson understands the challenges facing Manitoba’s agricultural industry and we look forward to working with him,” noted Keystone Agricultural Producers president Bill Campbell, in a statement.

“KAP would also like to thank Ralph Eichler, outgoing Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development. We have valued Minister Eichler’s desire to grow the industry through his various roles in public office and wish him the best.”

Other notable appointments in Manitoba’s new cabinet:

  • Cliff Cullen (MLA for Spruce Woods) as deputy premier and minister of economic development, investment and trade;
  • Kelvin Goertzen (MLA for Steinbach) as minister of justice and attorney general, and minister responsible for Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) and government house leader;
  • Cameron Friesen (MLA for Morden-Winkler) as minister of finance and minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro;
  • Jeff Wharton (MLA for Red River North) as minister of environment, climate and parks, and minister responsible for Efficiency Manitoba;
  • Reg Helwer (MLA for Brandon West) as minister of labour, consumer protection and government services, minister responsible for the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and minister responsible for the civil service;
  • Wayne Ewasko (MLA for Lac du Bonnet) as minister of education and early childhood learning;
  • Jon Reyes (MLA for Waverley) as minister of advanced education, skills and immigration.

The cabinet shuffle comes as Stefanson, who became premier in the fall of 2021, fights an uphill political battle. The Angus Reid Institute released quarterly polling results on Jan. 17 showing Stefanson with the lowest approval rating of all premiers across the country, at 21 per cent. The next provincial election in Manitoba is slated for the fall of 2023.

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