Iain Rankin took office as Nova Scotia’s 29th premier yesterday, naming a 16-member cabinet that pulls some MLAs off the back benches.

“The changes made in government today are a first step in fulfilling my promise to put the province on track for a successful economic recovery from the global pandemic,” Rankin says in a press release.

The cabinet includes a new Department of Infrastructure and Housing and an Office of Equity and Anti-Racism. There is also a new Office of Mental Health and Addictions under the Department of Health and Wellness.

The Rankin government also renamed several departments.

The new cabinet, with Lieutenant-Governor LeBlanc and Premier Rankin front and centre. Photo: CNS

Rankin also serves as president of the Executive Council and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Regulatory Affairs and Service Effectiveness. He is Minister of the Department of L’Nu Affairs, formally the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, and responsible for youth, military relations and the Office of Citizen-Centered Approaches.

Kelly Regan becomes Deputy Premier and continues as Minister of Community Services with responsibility for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. She also helms the Department of Seniors.

Labi Kousoulis, who finished a close second in the race for Liberal leader, is the new Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and Minister of Inclusive Economic Growth (nee the Department of Business).

Randy Delorey, the third-place finisher in the leadership race, is Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Minister of Labour Relations.

With many McNeil loyalists planning retirement, three backbenchers join the cabinet. Keith Irving, MLA for Kings South, becomes Minister of Environment and Climate Change, plus Chair of Treasury and Policy Board. Ben Jessome, MLA for Hammonds Plains-Lucasville, becomes Minister of the Public Service Commission, and Brendan Maguire, MLA for Halifax Atlantic, is Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Zach Churchill becomes Minister of Health and Wellness and will oversee the new Office of Mental Health and Addictions. Chuck Porter returns to cabinet as Minister of Lands and Forestry and Energy and Mines, while Derek Mombourquette becomes Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Tony Ince leads the new Office of Equity and Anti-Racism, while keeping responsibility for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Communications Nova Scotia is now his responsibility as well.

Lena Metlege Diab is now Minister of Immigration and Population Growth, and remains as minister of both Labour and Advanced Education and Acadian Affairs and Francophonie. Geoff MacLellan takes over the Department of Infrastructure and Housing.

Lloyd Hines is now Minister of Transportation and Active Transit. Keith Colwell continues as Minister of Agriculture and of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Patricia Arab remains Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services. Suzanne Lohnes-Croft remains as Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage and Gaelic Affairs with responsibility for the Voluntary Sector now among her duties.

Dr. Robert Strang. Photo: CNS

New cases of COVID-19 U.K. variant
Nova Scotia has 20 known active cases of COVID-19, with three new cases (one in the Western Zone, two in the Central Zone) reported in the latest government update. One person is currently hospitalized in ICU with the disease.

Unrelated to those cases, the National Microbiology Lab confirmed three more cases of the U.K. variant (AKA B.1.1.7) in Nova Scotia. Two cases are in Central Zone and travelled together. The other case is in Western Zone and is not connected to the pair who travelled. The three cases are being reinvestigated. There have been six known cases of the U.K. variant in the province.

“This reminds us again why we must remain vigilant,” says Premier Rankin in a press release. “I will continue to support the province’s solid public health response to this pandemic.”

Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 1,560 tests on Feb. 22 and 194,414 since the second wave of the pandemic began in October.

As of Feb. 22, Nova Scotian health-workers have dispensed 27,966 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 11,532 people getting the second jab that completes their inoculation.

Rankin and Strang are scheduled to webcast an update today at 3 p.m.

Donny Lohnes

RCMP seek help solving Lunenburg County murder
On Oct. 25, someone murdered Donny Lohnes near his Pine Grove home. As RCMP continue to investigate, they’re looking for information about an altercation earlier that day that may be linked to the 57-year-old’s death.

Police say there was a dispute “involving a group of people” near the Dufferin Street Honda dealership in Bridgewater between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. They’re asking anyone who knows about it, even if they didn’t witness it, to contact investigators.

Keith Corcoran has more for LighthouseNow.

More medical response time concerns
A Pictou County woman is sharing her worries about emergency medical response time in Nova Scotia, after her father had a heart attack and died during the 45-minute wait for an ambulance. The River John fire station is just minutes from his home, but due to pandemic rules, dispatchers didn’t send the firefighters.

“There are first responders that live close by that could’ve helped,” says Grace Joudrey-Clough. “With the ambulance situation right now, people could be waiting a long time… It could be minutes with [firefighters] versus waiting for EHS.”

Raissa Tetanish reports for The Light.

Gaby d’Entremont. Photo: Submitted

When Nova Scotia hunted the whales
In the 1960s, Nova Scotia’s provincial government wanted to stimulate the moribund rural economy. Norwegians had been hunting whales profitably in Atlantic Canadian waters for decades, so policymakers thought: why not us?

Gaby d’Entremont from West Pubnico was Nova Scotia’s first (and, as it turns out, only) whale gunner. Utterly unaware what he was getting into, he still shudders at the memory of the first whale he hunted.

“It was cruel what happened,” he recalls. “I hate to think about it … I put seven harpoons in its back, because we didn’t know what we were doing. It was wrong. But we just didn’t know.”

He shares his experiences with Michael Cosgrove in this 2018 Halifax Magazine story.

Cleaning up derelict boats
Abandoned boats litter the Nova Scotian coastline, creating hazards to navigation and oozing pollutants into the ocean. Now the federal government is funding a provincial program to clean up 14 of the wrecks.

“The assessment process looked at the potential risk to the shoreline and community, as well as their unsightliness,” says Nova Scotia Lands spokesperson Trish Smith.

Jake Boudrot has details for The Reporter.

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