There will be a few new faces around the table at today’s provincial cabinet meeting.

Former finance minister Graham Steele and transportation minister Bill Estabrooks have both announced they will not seek another term in the next election, citing personal reasons.

“I’ve spent a third of my working life as a lawyer and the next third as a politician,” said Steele. “I feel that I need to move on now, in order to have that last third of my career doing something different.”

Maureen Macdonald has moved from health to become the province’s first female finance minister.

Liberal party leader, Stephen McNeil said he supported Graham Steele’s decision, but wondered what his departure might signal about the government’s overall intentions.

“Here’s a man who, for the last three years, has gone around the province preaching restraint, talking about Nova Scotians having to make some tough decisions personally to allow government to get back to balance,” he said. “To be leaving now doesn’t make sense.”

Steele emphasized that his decision to leave is strictly personal.

“I do want to be clear, this is being done at my request and the premier has very kindly asked am I sure, because he’d like me to stay if I wanted to,” he said. “But for me this is the right decision.”

Premier Darrell Dexter said he’s sorry to lose the plain-spoken, no-nonsense finance minister.

“I talked to him as best I could about these things,” he said. “But if you know Graham, he comes with fully-formed opinions and ideas. By the time he was prepared to say the things that he said, he had made the decision.”

Estabrooks says his departure is motivated by health concerns.

“Parkinson’s is grinding away at me,” he said. “Based upon some health advice back in January, I went to the premier in March and said I can serve through this Treasury Board session, I can serve through til we get this budget passed. But, after the house adjourns, I’m going to resign as cabinet minister.”

Dave Wilson will become the new health minister, and Leonard Preyra enters cabinet for the first time in Wilson’s former job as communities, culture and heritage minister.

Antigonish MLA Maurice Smith will take over Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal from Estabrooks.

PC Party Leader, Jaimie Baillie is shrugging off the cabinet shuffle.

“This is just a PR exercise that they are engaged in to get Nova Scotians off the real issues, which are taxes and power rates and jobs,” he said.
Steele was first elected to the provincial legislature in a 2001 by-election in the riding of Halifax Fairview. He was sworn in as finance minister when Nova Scotia elected its first NDP government in June 2009.
Before entering public life, Steele was a practicing lawyer.
Estabrooks, a former school teacher, was elected in 1998 to represent the Halifax-area riding of Timberlea-Prospect.
The last time Dexter made any significant changes to his cabinet was in January 2011.

At that time, Dexter brought the size of his cabinet to 14 members by adding two positions, citing the change on a heavy workload his ministers were working under.