Wab Kinew sworn in as Manitoba premier along with new NDP cabinet

Four members of the cabinet are Indigenous MLAs.

Manitoba’s new premier, Wab Kinew, has been sworn in.

He led the New Democrats to victory on Oct. 3 and defeated the Progressive Conservatives, who had been in power for seven years.

Kinew is the first First Nations premier of a Canadian province and his cabinet includes the first female First Nations cabinet minister.

Nahanni Fontaine, the party house leader who represents the Winnipeg riding of St. John’s, was sworn in as minister of families, minister responsible for accessibility and minister responsible for gender equity at a ceremony Wednesday morning.

Fontaine is one of four Indigenous politicians named to the NDP cabinet.

The others are Ian Bushie (MLA for Keewatinook and former First Nations chief) as minister of municipal and northern relations and minister of Indigenous economic development, and Métis women Bernadette Smith (MLA for Point Douglas) as minister of housing, addictions and homelessness, and minister responsible for mental health; and Renée Cable, minister of advanced education and training,

Kinew will also have a cabinet portfolio has minister responsible for Indigenous reconciliation.

The ceremony was held at The Leaf, a botanical attraction in Winnipeg with an indoor waterfall.

It started off with an opening prayer by the chief of the Red Sucker Lake First Nation and the lighting of the Qulliq, a traditional oil lamp used by Inuit.

That was followed by the Norman Chief Memorial Dancers performing the Red River Jig, a traditional Métis dance accompanied by a fiddle tune.

The NDP captured 34 of the 57 legislature seats on election night. Ten of those 34 MLAs are Indigenous.

Some of those in attendance at Wednesday’s ceremony include Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, Canadian actor Adam Beach and Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, which represents 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota First Nations in southern Manitoba.

Kinew had many veteran politicians and rookies from which to pick his cabinet.

Among the high-profile New Democrats who were re-elected is Uzoma Asagwara, a former psychiatric nurse who was the NDP health critic in Opposition.

Adrien Sala, who served as NDP finance critic, is also serving a second term and has had a high profile in the legislature.

Two other Indigenous women in the NDP caucus are Amanda Lathlin (First Nations), who has been in the legislature since winning a byelection in 2015. And newcomer Billie Cross (Métis).

One New Democrat with previous cabinet experience is Ron Kostyshyn, who served as agriculture minister under former premier Greg Selinger before losing his seat in 2016. Kostyshyn is also one of the few New Democrats elected in western Manitoba.

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