CORNER BROOK — Tom Marshall wanted out of the Department of Finance portfolio and into the Department of Natural Resources.
The Conservative MHA for Humber East remains adamant that he is serving his last term in office, and said he wanted to spend the remainder of that time focusing on forestry, and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper in particular.
He considers the forestry sector the most important to the people he represents, and said that is heavily influenced by the future of the mill.
“I was looking to focus on certain things which Finance would not enable me to focus on,” he said. “It’s a file that is important to the whole west coast. There are a lot of people who have earned their living in the past because of that, a lot of people who are pensioners, and it is an industry that is in difficulty.”
Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced the small cabinet shuffle Wednesday. Marshall and Jerome Kennedy swapped portfolios. The change came about three months after a major change within cabinet.
Marshall was in his sixth year as minister of Finance, after spending the previous four as minister of Justice. He will remain attorney general.
“I think that is long enough in a single portfolio,” he said. “There’s a saying that change is as good as a rest, and I thought it was appropriate that this was the time to change.”
Meanwhile, Bay of Islands Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce says there’s no doubt in his mind Marshall wanted out of Finance. He claims Marshall doesn’t want to be in the portfolio for a number of reasons.
“It is very obvious to me that there’s two things he didn’t want to do,” Joyce said Wednesday afternoon. “One, have to put up with the grief from the people of Corner Brook about his lack of delivery on the hospital to Corner Brook, and he didn’t want to deal with the tough financial situation the province finds themselves in.”
Joyce has been vocal with his concerns that the new regional hospital will be downsized from what was originally expected or committed to. He also has qualms about the ongoing ability of the province to assist the forestry industry, specifically the mill.
“When money is flowing and you can just throw it around, throw $30 million here and waste all kinds of money, it is easy to do,” he said.
“When you are in a deficit situation, and you have commitments that you made and you can’t deliver ... words are cheap.”
Joyce also cautioned the people of the province over the appointment of Kennedy as Finance minister.
“Everybody knows with Jerome Kennedy it is my way or the highway,” he said. “Anybody who dares question him is going to be challenged. There won’t be a debate on the issues anymore. It won’t be coming with the hammer anymore, it will be coming with the anvil.”
Marshall, in the meantime, said Joyce’s criticism and accusations are unfounded. He said he enjoyed his years as Finance minister and was not shying away from the province’s poor financial position or criticism of the hospital project.
“That’s a ridiculous comment,” he said. “Mr. Joyce continues to make comments in the media about what other people are saying or doing, and he has no idea what he is talking about.”
Marshall reiterated his own and the province’s commitment to the construction of the new hospital in Corner Brook. He said the process to get the right design takes time.