PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L.
If there’s anyone who has had a lot on their plate over the last seven months, it would have to be Burgeo–La Poile MHA and Justice Minister Andrew Parsons.
On Thursday, Nov. 8, Premier Dwight Ball announced MHA Labrador West Graham Letto as the new minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment.
Letto takes over the portfolio from Parsons, who himself served as interim minister since April. Prior to that the portfolio had been held by Humber – Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce.
Ball’s recent cabinet shuffle came less than a year before the scheduled Oct. 8, 2019 elections.
“I didn’t anticipate that it would be a permanent thing by any means,” said Parsons via telephone interview. “I feel like we managed to get a lot of work done.
“I certainly never acted like a caretaker. We did a lot of work over seven months, trying to move initiatives forward, deal with issues… that department is constantly moving.”
One of the initiatives that stands out most for Parsons is the introduction of the provincial waste management program, which has encountered more than a few hiccups, even within his own district of Burgeo–La Poile.
“That’s something that’s an ongoing issue, when you’re moving forward with some pretty significant changes in how we do things,” Parsons said. “It’s an essential thing that has to happen.”
Parsons also oversaw changes to the Community Enhancement Employment Program (CEEP).
“We put it out earlier in the year than it’s ever been done,” he noted. The program used to be announced each year in November, but this year it was bumped forward to September.
But Parsons takes no real credit for announcements made under his tenure, preferring to laud the department’s staff.
“I got to announce a lot of positive work that… the work had already been there. I just continued it on. I can’t take any credit,” said Parsons. “I know I worked pretty hard, but at the same time there was a good bunch around, we got along really well, and I learned a lot. I mean I learned a hell of a lot in there, so it’s been a good experience for me.”
Parsons believes Letto is a solid fit for the portfolio who won’t have a problem stepping right in.
“Graham’s got a great background,” says Parsons. “He’s got mayor experience, MNL (Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador) experience. He understands the portfolio.”
Parsons doesn’t believe that dropping a portfolio will mean less work, just as adding it didn’t mean sacrificing issues in Justice. Instead he just got better at juggling his schedule.
“You learn how to make things happen. The amount of time that I would spend say, getting ready for Question Period when I first started versus now, I don’t need it. It’s learned behavior,” said Parsons. “We’re getting the work done.”
Parsons does admit that he will now be able to address non-urgent meetings that were postponed and perhaps attend events he couldn’t schedule in before.
Then there’s the toll on his personal life.
“There was less time home. I mean I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Gander at a convention,” notes Parsons. “I can’t say I’ll work any harder at this because it hasn’t been an issue, but hopefully it gives me a little more free time that I can enjoy with friends and family.”
Parsons credits his wife, Erin, for her support and ability to keep things running smoothly in his absence.
“I’m happy to go back to doing my regular work. It was trying,” he said. “It was already busy enough between constituency work and your departmental work and being House Leader and trying to spend time with my family.”
When it comes to his future in politics, Parsons initially laughs outright at the suggestion he is being groomed for the office of premier.
“I’m happy people think I’m capable enough to do it,” he says after giving it some thought. “The answer probably changes every day depending on the day.
“I love my job. I love the work, both the constituency work and the Justice side of it. I like being able to make decisions and to fix issues for people.”