N.S. ag minister gets municipal relations, liquor files

Responsibility for municipal relations and liquor and gaming licenses in Nova Scotia will now fall to its agriculture minister.

Premier Darrell Dexter on Tuesday named Agriculture Minister John MacDonell, a sheep producer and the MLA for Hants East, as minister for Service Nova Scotia and municipal relations, on top of his duties on the ag file.

The move comes as part of a shuffle of Dexter’s cabinet and restructuring of several government departments, to “better distribute” ministers’ workloads and provide “more effective service delivery.”

Dexter also announced he would move the alcohol and gaming division, responsible for licensing activities, to Service Nova Scotia from its previous jurisdiction in the labour and advanced education department.

The province said moving the division to Service Nova Scotia would improve efficiency as it conducts “similar work in licensing, permits, enforcement and providing front-line service to the public.”

That includes issuing liquor licenses for restaurants, lounges, pubs, cabarets, clubs, catering and special events, as well as gaming licenses for bingos, ticket lotteries and related activities.

The alcohol and gaming division does not include responsibility for the province’s Crown-owned liquor business, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., which remains with Finance Minister Graham Steele.

Nor does it include responsibility for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corp., which now falls to Sackville-Cobequid MLA Dave Wilson, who joined cabinet Tuesday as communities, culture and heritage minister.

MacDonell’s municipal relations department is to provide program support, advice and assistance for municipalities and maintain the “legislative framework” in which municipalities operate in the province.

In other ag-related moves, Windsor Junction-area MLA Percy Paris, the province’s economic and rural development minister, will now add the tourism file to his duties as it becomes part of the economic and rural development department.

Also, the province’s Gateway Secretariat, including “all trade-related policy within government” — such as trade in agriculture and fishery products and energy, as well as trade-related matters in intergovernmental affairs and through Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) — will now fall under the responsibility of Paris’ expanded department.

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