With the dust settled, those of us who pay attention to politics in this province will be turning our attention towards the announcement of a new Cabinet that's expected next week. I suspect that the Premier will have a number of questions to answer during his deliberations... I certainly don't envy him.
The size of cabinet is going to be an issue. I'm under no illusions that we'll see only 18 Ministers (plus the 3 Associate Ministers), but I also don't think we're going to see a Klein-esque ballooning to 24 or 25 Ministers either. I think that you can eliminate the Associate Ministries but turn those seats (not necessarily portfolios) into full Cabinet spots and consider it a good compromise. That makes 21 Ministers, plus the Premier. Reasonable given the size of caucus, I think.
I also suspect that there will be some re-jigging of the Ministries themselves. The biggest rumour i've heard to that effect is the idea of splitting the Energy Ministry into two parts, one that deals strictly with oil and gas and the other that would deal with Utilities, Power Generation, the Nuclear question, etc. I think that's a good move that would potentially allow Mel Knight to stick with the latter and let the Premier put someone from Calgary into the Oil and Gas portion to "calm" the mucky-mucks here in downtown Calgary.
I mentioned yesterday that I think the Premier needs to shake up his current cabinet and inject new blood. I won't get into who I think should be dumped because, frankly, I trust that the Premier will be able to make that decision for himself.
I will, however, offer my thoughts on some folks I think could make a real contribution to our next Executive Council. In addition to elevating current Associate Ministers Cindy Ady (Calgary Shaw), Yvonne Fritz (Calgary Cross), and Gene Zwozdesky (Edmonton Mill Creek) to full Cabinet positions, I think the Premier should take a good look at the following MLAs:
MARY ANNE JABLONSKI (Red Deer North)
Mary Anne has been in caucus since she won Red Deer North in the post-Stockwell by-election back in 2000. Since then, she has earned her reputation as a hard-working and dedicated representative for her constituents and Albertans in general.
When Mary Anne Jablonski has a task assigned to her, she gets it done and gets it done well... these are the qualities you look for in a prospective Minister. Her geography also helps. Even though Luke Ouellette from surrounding Innisfail-Sylvan Lake will most certainly be returning, its important for Red Deer proper to have a voice at the table.
She's experienced, she gets results, and she's extraordinarily well-liked. To me, this is a no-brainer.
LEN WEBBER (Calgary Foothills)
A lot of people (yours truly NOT included) thought Len was in serious trouble in his suburban North Calgary constituency. To be fair, his challenger was certainly of a higher calibre than most Liberal candidates.
Len, it seems, took absolutely nothing for granted. I drove through Foothills on Saturday as I was house hunting and was floored at the number of lawn signs Len had out on private property. I know the results were certainly much closer than the lawn sign war was, but I think that shows that people who support Len are VERY proud to do so... and with good reason.
Len Webber has politics in his blood, his father being former MLA and Cabinet Miniser Dr. Neil Webber. He also has an impressive background in both the blue-collar (Journeyman Electrician) and white-collar (B. Comm from U of C) sectors.
From businessmen to athletes to former Premiers (all of whom endorsed him in an impressive video on his website), those who know Len Webber know him as someone who can put his shoulder to the wheel and get things done.
DOUG GRIFFITHS (Battle River-Wainwright)
Doug Griffiths has one of the sharpest public policy minds of anyone i've ever met, period.
Some may say that the two things working against Doug when it comes to being included in Cabinet are his age and the fact that he's a rural MLA. At first glance they may be right, but I think digging a bit deeper proves quite the opposite.
The age issue, to me, really isn't one. If the Premier is truly going to try and strike a demographic balance with his new cabinet, I think that having a Minister under the age of 40 is an easy call to make.
The worries of a rural overload are a bit more of an issue, but I think they can easily be addressed. Frankly, some of our rural Ministers could use a return to the backbench and I think that replacing one of them with Doug would be a supurb decision. Best of all, Doug is one of the few people who so thoroughly understands how rural and urban Alberta can work with and even feed off of each other when it comes to issues of economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.
Doug would be a rural Minister who really understands the big picture... I can't think of anyone better to put the latte-sippers at the Journal in their place ;)
GEORGE ROGERS (Leduc-Beaumont-Devon)
Here's a guy who doesn't let many things get in his way.
People didn't think a black man could get elected in a town like Leduc. People just wouldn't be ready for that, they thought. No problem, just run and prove them wrong. He did.
He wanted to make the jump to provincial politics in 2004, but there was already an incumbent in his riding. No problem, just challenge him for the nomination and win. He did.
George Rogers has had an exceptional career thus far. He's been a very popular councillor and Mayor of Leduc, even serving for two years as the President of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. He's also a well-liked member of caucus.
The secret to George's success is his overwhelmingly positive attitude. I have never seen George Rogers at an event where he isn't in the best of spirits. Sure he understands that there are big issues that need addressing, but he does so cheerfully and with the best of intentions.
If a Capital Region shake up is coming down the pipe when the Premier announces the new Cabinet, there's definetly a chance we'll see George Rogers on the list.
ALISON REDFORD (Calgary Elbow)
Alison was probably our biggest giant-killer on Monday night. Not that Craig Cheffins is much of a giant, but the stigma of the Liberals holding Calgary Elbow was simply too much for the Calgary Elbow PC crew to stomach and they set about making it right. And boy did they ever pick the right candidate.
Alison Redford is everything you want in a Cabinet Minister. She's exceptionally intelligent, very well spoken, personable, and has a broad range of experience.
Her resume speaks for itself. If there's a spot for a rookie around the Cabinet Table, you can bet it'll likely be Alison.
DR. RAJ SHERMAN (Edmonton Meadowlark)
If Alison has the #1 spot for a potential rookie in Cabinet, Dr. Sherman is following closely behind her.
With the plethora of new Edmonton MLAs, we're bound to see increased representation from Edmonton proper around the Cabinet table. Dr. Sherman is one of the best-qualified to take one of these seats.
His experience as an Emergency Room Physician would be invaluable given that Albertans continually rate Health Care as their number one issue. I'm not suggesting he'll be thrown into the Health portfolio, that would be cruel punishment for a brand-new Minister... but I do think that his voice would still be a useful one when the discussions come up in Cabinet.
Add to this the fact that he's young, very well-spoken and presentable, and he thoroughly trounced his opponent in what was supposed to be a close race.
Of the new Edmonton MLAs, there is no one with a better shot at Cabinet than Raj Sherman.
Now what happens next week is anyone's guess. Although I did pretty well in guessing the seat count (I had 68), I have a much worse track record when it comes to guessing Cabinet picks.
I do hope, though, that the Premier recognizes the talents of the people listed above. Even if he doesn't make them Ministers, they should be assigned to important and challenging files... they won't dissapoint.