On May 25, Premier Brad Wall announced a major re-organization of cabinet and government ministries, designed to better reflect the government's growth agenda.
When cabinet shuffles, according to the new Health Minister Dustin Duncan, who is the MLA for Weyburn-Big Muddy and the former Environment Minister, newly appointed or re-appointed cabinet ministers like himself are given about a day's notice prior to being sworn in to office.
"You're not supposed to tell anyone, except your spouse," he said, adding that he could invite two extra people to the swearing in ceremony, but he couldn't tell them why they were going to Regina!
"It's kind of an amazing experience," he said of the ceremonies.
Duncan has already met with the new Environment Minister, Ken Cheveldayoff, to share his perspective on the various files he was working on prior to the shuffle. Duncan said that, although he can offer his influence, he realizes it is ultimately no longer under his control.
"There are a couple of things that I'll be watching pretty closely and hopefully we see a good result on a couple of files," said Duncan, adding, "Minister Cheveldayoff is a great guy. He's been in cabinet right from the beginning of our government, so I have a lot of confidence in him."
Minister Duncan said that he had developed good working relationships with the Ministry of Environment staff and stakeholders.
"It's kind of bittersweet," he said of moving on. "It's a great honour but it's also saying good-bye to a lot of people."
Weyburn's MLA is now in the process of transitioning into his new role as Health Minister. Since his appointment, Duncan has been spending time at the Ministry of Health offices in Regina, meeting with the Deputy Minister and staff.
"The next couple of weeks will be pretty intensive," said Duncan of the briefing process, which includes reading plenty of briefing notes and attending a number of meetings with various officials, in order to get up to speed.
Duncan will have the same deputy minister that the former health minister had, as well as the same senior officials.
"I will now take on the ministry's office staff," he said, "which is great because it provides continuity for me, since I'm learning this job."
Interestingly, after graduating from university ten years ago, Dustin Duncan took his first job, a six-month contract, at the Department of Health. Back then, he was the lowest ranking staff member. Now, in his new capacity, he even recognizes some of the same staff members.
"I am grateful for the opportunity," he said.
Duncan said that he has expressed to his new senior officials that he doesn't want the transition to a new minister to be used as an excuse for any slowing of progress within the Ministry of Health.
"I think that we have some great momentum going in health, in terms of making changes to the health care system and seeing improvements in things like surgery wait lists," he said, adding that he intends to be brought up to speed as quickly as possible so that no momentum is lost.
Minister Duncan plans to sit down with the former Health Minister, Don McMorris.
"I'm going to find out what are some of the areas he is hoping I'll continue on with, what are some of the challenges that he sees going forward, just so that he can give me some advice," he said.
Don McMorris had served as Minister of Health in that capacity for four and a half years and Premier Wall considered McMorris 'one of the most effective and innovative Health Ministers in the country.'
"When I think of this new role, I know I have incredibly big shoes to fill," said Duncan. "Don McMorris, in my view, did just such an amazing job in four and a half years. It's such a large portfolio. It's 45 per cent of the entire provincial budget. One out of every two dollars that the government spends is on health care."
"I want to ensure that I am able to provide some continuity in terms of some of the things that Minister McMorris was working on, such as the surgical initiative," he said. "We're pretty close to our goal that nobody will wait longer than three months for surgery in this province."
Minister Duncan said that he is very honoured to have the challenge of building upon what McMorris has established, adding that McMorris was reputed to have improved the health care system during his time as Health Minister.
"It's my goal that, for however short or long I have as the Minister of Health, I hope people will be able to say that 'in his time, the system got even better'."