Lunenburg MLA Suzanne Lohnes-Croft is the province's newest minister of communities, culture and heritage, becoming the first lawmaker in the riding to assume a cabinet post since the late Michael Baker in the late 2000s.
Lohnes-Croft, a Liberal MLA in the McNeil government since 2013, was named to executive council October 13 and takes on Gaelic Affairs in addition to the other portfolio.
"It's quite an honour," she told LighthouseNOW, adding it will entail "lots of learning, lots of homework" in the meantime to get up to speed with briefings.
Premier Stephen McNeil texted Thanksgiving wishes to her and then phoned a half-hour later asking if she would accept an appointment. "I was kind of shocked," she said of her reaction.
Up to the time of her ascension to cabinet, Lohnes-Croft was chairwoman of two legislative committees, vice chairwoman of two others, and a member of a commission and another committee. A deputy speaker in the legislature, she figured her committee work, along with being an assistant to the minister of education, would continue commanding her attention. "I had no expectations" of making into executive council," she indicated.
Lohnes-Croft is an educator and has been involved in many local community organizations and events.
"Ms. Lohnes-Croft is a dedicated MLA and brings a wealth of community experience to the executive council," McNeil said in a statement. "I look forward to having her perspective around the cabinet table."
The portfolio fits well with her interests and background.
"There's so much work to be done," she explained to LighthouseNOW. "And COVID-19 has really affected the arts community."
She also intends to keep a close watch on the volunteer sector and heritage property matters, which are also among her new responsibilities.
An appointment to cabinet also means a substantial pay raise for Lohnes-Croft.
Committee pay translates to an extra $2,101 for committee chairs or $525 for vice-chairs on top of a MLA's base salary of $89,234.90.
A minister with a portfolio gains $49,046.51 on top of his or her lawmaker's annual pay.
Michael Baker was the riding's last cabinet minister, having been in charge of finance and justice in the John Hamm and Rodney MacDonald governments.