Today's announcement by Premier Stelmach was impressive... impressive in the sense that only one Minister doesn't return to Cabinet (more on that below), yet the overall impression is that this is a very new and dynamic team. Some of that can be credited to the re-assignment of current Ministers, some can be credited to the rookies he chose to promote.
Without further delay, my reactions:
Hon. Ron Stevens (Calgary Glenmore)
Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations
I don't think anyone expected Ron to lose his title as Deputy Premier. In the shuffle he holds it and takes on the Department of International and Intergovernmental Relations. Some might think this is a demotion but, as Ken Chapman pointed out, this Ministry is going to have a very high profile in the next few years. It has also been rumoured that Stevens specifically requested this Ministry. I think it'll be a good fit... Ron has the diplomatic skills required to do this job effectively and, as Deputy Premier, can speak with authority when dealing with other governments.
Hon. Lloyd Snelgrove (Vermilion-Lloydminster)
President of the Treasury Board
I think a lot of people, yours truly included, are happy that Lloyd stays where he is. Treasury Board is a very important portfolio and Lloyd's business background is a huge asset when considering how our tax dollars are spent. Now that Service Alberta has been carved off into its own Ministry, Lloyd will really have the freedom to be creative with how the Treasury is managed.
Hon. Doug Horner (Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert)
Minister of Advanced Education and Technology
Another solid Minister who deserved to stay put. Doug Horner is one of the brightest minds in caucus and has won a lot of fans as Advanced Education Minister. There was no reason to move him, and the Premier apparently agrees.
Hon. Dave Hancock (Edmonton Whitemud)
Minister of Education
I thought Dave would be staying in Health. He was doing a good job and is an excellent spokesperson for high profile Ministries. Those who have sour grapes over his move, though, shouldn't. The Health Department will be presenting its own challenges that i'll describe in my reaction to its new Minister. Hancock's move over to Education is NOT A DEMOTION, though. Education is an important and high profile Ministry along the lines of Health, Advanced Ed, Finance, and the like. Dave's talents will be well used as Education Minister and, moreover, I'm willing to bet there are some pretty happy bureaucrats in Education today.
Hon. Mel Knight (Grande Prairie-Smoky)
Minister of Energy
The touted splitting of the Energy Department didn't happen and Mel remains in charge. Contrary to opposition rantings (we all know how much stock Albertans put in those), Mel has been a competant Minister who understands the portfolio. Stability as the Royalty Review process comes to an end is also important, which I think was a big factor in keeping Mel in this portfolio.
Hon. Iris Evans (Sherwood Park)
Minister of Finance and Enterprise
There were some who thought we'd see the end of Iris. They, clearly, were crazy. She has great loyalty to the Premier as one of his original backers and, as a strong voice in the Capital Region, was sure to remain. It will be interesting to see what specific responsibilities she will hold as Finance Minister, particularily now that Lloyd Snelgrove is free to focus solely on Treasury Board issues.
Hon. Ron Liepert (Calgary West)
Minister of Health and Wellness
People who thought Liepert was simply brought in to pacify Dinning supporters can think again. Ron has clearly earned the Premier's trust. His move to Health should be seen as a big, bold neon sign pointed directly at Jack Davis and David Tuer that reads "UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT". The Calgary Health Region clearly needs to step up its budgeting and long-term planning methods, and having a Minister from Calgary is a clear sign that the province is willing to listen to concerns... but not to put up with any more sensationalism. That message will be quite clearly delivered, methinks, by Minister Liepert.
Hon. Rob Renner (Medicine Hat)
Minister of Environment
As the senior voice for Southeastern Alberta, I was pretty sure that Rob wasn't leaving Cabinet. I did, however, think he might have been shuffled out of Environment in favour of someone from one of the big cities. Upon reflection, though, the Green Party did best in two RURAL ridings so perhaps a Minister from an urban centre surrounded by prairie makes sense after. Clearly the Premier thinks so and chose to leave him where he is.
Hon. Luke Ouellette (Innisfail-Sylvan Lake)
Minister of Transportation
No question here. Luke is a solid guy who's whole personality screams "I'm gonna build you some roads." The fact that his old Ministry has again been split into separate Ministries of Transportation and Infrastructure respectively gives him the ability to focus solely on upgrading and improving the provincial transportation network. Given some of the goodies in the 20 year Capital Plan, I expect Luke will be a busy man.
Hon. Gene Zwozdesky (Edmonton Mill Creek)
Minister of Aboriginal Relations
Gene Zwozdesky is a very unique individual. For a white male, I am always amazed at his ability to draw such admiration from so many unique cultural groups. I suspect the secret to his success is that he always treats everyone with the same respect and takes genuine interest in their cultural background. These traits will make him an excellent Minister of Aboriginal Relations. The other advantage to Gene's appointment is that he's an urban MLA. We have seen some of the difficulties facing large urban aboriginal populations in cities like Regina and Winnipeg... hopefully Gene will be able to use his talents as an urban MLA and as Minister of Aboriginal Relations to identify root causes of their struggles in order to avoid the experience in other western cities.
Hon. Alison Redford (Calgary Elbow)
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
Good call. Alison has proven herself to be a worthy addition to the team. She's smart, eloquent, and VERY well liked by the powers that be in corporate Calgary (guess who we'll be sending for fundraising calls ;) Alison's team is very proud of her today and with good reason. I suspect the more that Albertans get to know their new Justice Minister, the more they'll like her.
Hon. George Groeneveld (Highwood)
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
I had initially thought that Minister Groeneveld may have been one of the incumbent Ministers to be demoted to make room for someone from the cities, but then realized that Southern Alberta wouldn't take very kindly to losing one of their voices. Add to that the fact that he's actually done a good job in his portfolio and it makes sense that he remains. The Premier himself is a farmer, so you've got to think he's got a pretty good pulse on who will fill the Ag position well.
Hon. Janis Tarchuk (Banff-Cochrane)
Minister of Children and Youth Services
For as much as some of her constituents may have claimed she was invisible, Janis actually accomplished some good things as Children's Services Minister... namely the provincial boost for child care workers' wages. Presumably she's got more up her sleeve and the Premier is ready to let her keep at it.
Hon. Mary Anne Jablonski (Red Deer North)
Minister of Seniors and Community Supports
YES! This was my number 1 must-have in the new Cabinet and i'm pleased she was included. Mary Anne will be an important voice for Red Deer at the Cabinet table as well as an EXCELLENT advocate for those who worked so hard to build this province. I've already gushed about this woman's talents on the blog so I won't rehash it. I will, however, tell you how much I look forward to congratulating MINISTER Jablonski in person.
Hon. Hector Goudreau (Dunvegan-Central Peace)
Minister of Employment and Immigration
Hector Goudreau is a quiet-but-competent member of the team. I say this because, during pre-announcement speculation, Hector admitted publically that he would be disapointed if he was not returned to Cabinet, but understood that the Premier had a lot of talented people to choose from. This is clearly someone who puts the greater good before his own ambitions. He is a very able Minister who was perhaps a bit mismatched with his former portfolio of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture. I think the big-picture issues he'll get to deal with as Employment and Immigration Minister will be much better suited for him, and Albertans will likely be impressed with the results.
Hon. Ted Morton (Foothills-Rocky View)
Minister of Sustainable Resource Development
I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of Morton supporters out there who are mighty ticked that their boy isn't top of the precedence list and Minister in charge of a whole lotta stuff. On the flip side, there are those who think that Ted should have been bounced completely. In between that... well, we've got the status quo. To his credit, I think Minister Morton has done an excellent job of managing his portfolio and has surprised some by being quite the team player. I suspect he was kept in place (but moved up the order of precedece) to finish his work with the Land Use Framework. Rumours are that there'll be a shuffle in about 18 months... if Morton keeps up his good work, I suspect he'll get his promotion then.
Hon. Fred Lindsay (Stony Plain)
Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security
I honestly don't know much about Fred Lindsay other than the fact that he's very popular with his constituents and obviously has the Premier's trust. Solicitor General is a pretty straightforward Ministry and he has obviously performed his duties to the satisfaction of the Premier and his Department. Kudos are clearly deserved on a job well done.
Hon. Ray Danyluk (Lac La Biche-St. Paul)
Minister of Municipal Affairs
Ray finally gets to concentrate on what the Municipal Affairs Minister is actually supposed to work on, municipal governance issues. The urban and housing add-ons were clearly a poor match for someone from Elk Point, although he coped with them as best he could until the Premier brought in the help. Ray's a good, colourful person who really does have people's best interests at heart. I think he'll enjoy his job much more now that his Ministry has been streamlined.
Hon. Jack Hayden (Drumheller-Stettler)
Minister of Infrastructure
A lot of people said Jack Hayden was going into Cabinet. It wasn't that I didn't believe them, its just that I wasn't sure that there would be room for another rural Minister. The Premier managed to make it work, and work well. Mr. Hayden is rumoured to be one of the Premier's closest advisors in caucus... with someone going as far as to say that he should have been the Chief of Staff. As a stand-alone from Transportation, Infrastructure will get to deal with a whole lot of capital planning issues... issues that the Premier loves to sink his teeth into. Expect the boss and his new Infrastructure Minister to be working together very closely.
Hon. Yvonne Fritz (Calgary Cross)
Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs
Former Alderman: Check. Registered Nurse: Check. To me, Yvonne is well-qualified to be Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs. She brings the experience of a municipal politician together with the background of an urban MLA and the compassion of an R.N., all huge assets when dealing with these issues. This was a very easy call to make on the Premier's part.
Hon. Lindsay Blackett (Calgary North West)
Minister of Culture and Community Spirit
Welcome to the biggest surprise of the day! I can totally understand the rationale of establishing this Ministry as a shoot off from the former Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture. I must admit that I thought there would be other MLAs from Calgary that would go to Cabinet over a rookie other than Alison Redford. I also would have lost a lot of money betting on someone other than George Rogers becoming Alberta's first black Cabinet Minister. Still, the Premier obviously sees great potential in Lindsay Blackett. I've never met him, but thought frequently during the election that he seemed to be a very impressive fellow. This, obviously, is an impression that is shared in Edmonton.
Hon. Cindy Ady (Calgary Shaw)
Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation
This was another no-brainer. Cindy was doing very well as the Associate Minister responsible for this portfolio and as the Olympics approach, the importance of her work will grow. She's also a strong voice for Calgary and will be an excellent booster of Alberta across the country and around the world.
Hon. Heather Klimchuk (Edmonton Glenora)
Minister responsible for Service Alberta
When I was pondering whether or not the Premier would add one of the two new women from the Capital Region to Cabinet, I had a hard time deciding which he might choose. On one hand, he had Janice Sarich from Edmonton Decore, a former School Board trustee. On the other, he had Heather Klimchuk, a community activist and PC Party executive member. Both of these women bring unique talents to the table, but in the end it looks like the Premier chose the one with a history of activity in our party and I must say I'm thrilled for Heather. Her bright personality and friendly demeanour will be a great asset to her in livening up what can otherwise be a bit of a boring department. And in case you're reading this, Heather, you can expect a call from me about how to proceed with the license plate review ;)
THE CABINET POLICY COMMITTEE CHAIRS...
Art Johnston (Calgary Hays)
Chair, Cabinet Policy Committee on Community Services
I'll admit surprise on this one. I would have figured that a position like this would have gone to an MLA like Dave Rodney, especially after being kept out of Cabinet.
Greg Weadick (Lethbridge West)
Chair, Cabinet Policy Committee on the Economy
Lethbridge is an important city, but with a rookie PC MLA it may have been a bit of a stretch to expect a jump straight into Cabinet. This role will be good training for Mr. Weadick, the people of Lethbridge should be pleased with this appointment.
Tony Vandermeer (Edmonton Beverly-Clareview)
Chair, Cabinet Policy Committee on Health
This is a big committee that needs someone with experience as a legislator. As a former (now returning) MLA and NDP giant-killer (adios Ray Martin), Tony Vandermeer is a solid choice for this role.
Neil Brown (Calgary Nose Hill)
Chair, Cabinet Policy Committee on Public Safety and Services
Until Ken Kowalski retires, the Speaker's Chair is pretty solidly his. I picture Neil filling that role quite nicely, but he deserves something to put his talents towards until such an opening comes up. As a former lawyer, I think Neil will be an excellent chair of this committee.
Wayne Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti)
Chair, Cabinet Policy Committee on Resources and the Environment
This is a clear show of confidence in this rookie MLA from the Premier. Grande Prairie and NW Alberta already have two very strong Ministers, yet the boss saw fit to give Mr. Drysdale the chairmanship of what will prove to be a very important committee. He, along with Mel Knight, should probably make a point of regular visits to Fort McMurray in light of today's developments.
THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSISTANTS...
Manmeet Bhullar (Calgary Montrose)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology
Excellent! I have known Manmeet for a long time and think he will do a supurb job working with Minister Horner. He has been given an opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business and I know he'll take it to heart. It is also nice to see Calgary Montrose will again have some added clout in caucus after almost 15 years in proverbial darkness.
Doug Griffiths (Battle River-Wainwright)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
I made no secret that I was hoping Doug would get a promotion to Cabinet. While i'm disapointed that this wasn't the case, I think there is very much a silver lining in his new role. Although his Minister is very experienced in Agriculture, I think the Rural Development piece is far better suited to someone younger with a more progressive vision for rural Alberta... someone like Doug. He's one of the smartest guys in the house and has been given an opportunity to really spread his wings on this file... I know he won't disappoint.
Janice Sarich (Edmonton Decore)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education
As I mentioned earlier, I figured the Cabinet post for an Edmonton woman was an even toss-up between Heather Klimchuk and Janice Sarich. This, for a former school board trustee, is a pretty good consolation prize. Mrs. Sarich will likely be an asset to Minister Hancock as they move forward in the Department of Education. She would also be hard pressed to ask for a better mentor than Dave.
David Xiao (Edmonton McClung)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Employment and Immigration
This one, I admit, is a surprise. I didn't really think David Xiao was going to be included on any lists released today. It makes sense upon reflection, though. As an immigrant from mainland China, Mr. Xiao has a unique perspective on the challenges facing immigrants during the entire immigration process. His experiences will be very valuable for his Minister and he too has a high quality man to learn the ropes from.
Len Webber (Calgary Foothills)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Energy
I figured Len would be going to Cabinet and, like I was with Griffiths, am a bit disappointed. Still, this is by no means a slap in the face. As a Calgary MLA and Mel Knight's right-hand man, Len will be the go-to guy for the energy bosses in downtown Calgary. He will be kept very busy and will likely be one of the first Parliamentary Assistants promoted to full Cabinet when the time comes.
Diana McQueen (Drayton Valley-Calmar)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Environment
Outside of Lacombe-Ponoka, no Green candidate in Alberta got a higher vote total than Diana McQueen's opponent in Drayton Valley-Calmar. Environmental issues are obviously of concern to her constituents and this appointment allows her to put her talents to work addressing the issue head-on. I'm told that she is very well-liked in her constituency and is expected to impress a lot of people when she arrives on scene in Edmonton. I'm looking forward to it.
Raj Sherman (Edmonton Meadowlark)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Wellness
I figured Raj might be going into Cabinet but, as happens from time to time, I figured wrong. Still, Dr. Sherman will provide an important perspective into the health system as the new Parliamentary Assistant to Minister Ron Liepert. This also allows for a good Calgary/Edmonton balance in dealing with what Albertans consistently rate as their number 1 concern.
Thomas Lukaszuk (Edmonton Castle Downs)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs
A lot of people (perhaps Thomas included) thought this was going to be his big break into Cabinet. He has certainly grown from the brash individual who was elected in 2001 into a solid MLA. His youth, my guess, remains an issue. Even though he's now in his 3rd term, Thomas is still a young guy with lots of potential left. He'll be the urban counterpart to a rural Minister in a department that touches all Albertans, a pretty good gig as he's climbing the ladder, i'd say.
Rob Anderson (Airdrie-Chestermere)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security
This is going to be one busy man. He's a new MLA, represents a sprawling constituency, has 3 children under the age of 3 at home, and NOW is a Parliamentary Assistant. From what i've heard, Rob Anderson has the energy and the discipline to handle all of this and more. He's another one that I have yet to meet, but am told will turn a lot of heads in Edmonton.
Evan Berger (Livingstone-Macleod)
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development
Evan Berger's predecessor, David Coutts, leaves some big shoes to fill. It seems that Mr. Berger will get the chance to prove he's up to the task early on with his new role as Ted Morton's Parliamentary Assistant. He's got experience in dealing with the kinds of issues that will keep him and his Minister busy and both men seem to be cut from the same cloth. I suspect they'll very much enjoy working with each other, particularily as they roll out the new Land Use Framework.
AND FINALLY, THE SHOCKER...
I'm sure more than one of you are wondering about my thoughts on the complete demotion of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Guy Boutilier.
Quite simply, I was stunned.
I have known Guy for longer than I can remember. He was the one who brought me into PC Alberta in the first place some 10 years ago. I clearly remember the day he was first elevated to Cabinet in 2001 as Minister of Municipal Affairs... I helped him clean out his office in the Legislature Annex.
There are some who say this was coming. I can understand that... you'll recall that I speculated that Guy was going to be left out of Ed Stelmach's first Cabinet 14 months ago.
I made that call based on all of the speculation I was hearing from others. I didn't believe it, but it was too widely shared for me not to give it creedence. Thankfully, I was wrong.
Fast forward to today. I was hearing almost NOTHING about the prospect of Guy being left out. Some thought he should be replaced, but simply could not rationalize the most economically important region of the country being left out.
And yet, they were.
The rationale for the Premier's decision is something that only he can provide. His reasoning may have been sound, particularily given the otherwise outstanding job he did putting this Cabinet together.
I worry, though, about the consequences for our party in Fort McMurray. Everyone i've spoken to back home today shares the same statement of disbelief.
A lot of questions remain... will Guy be re-promoted to Cabinet in the next shuffle?... will he stay on as MLA for a full term from the backbench?... if there's a by-election, who will run?... who will win?
In the meantime, I will be watching the reaction and potential for backlash in the Oilsands City VERY closely.
With a few exceptions, I think the Premier did a masterful job in crafting this Cabinet. There are more women, better representation for our big cities, and a more genuinely diverse team. I think the Premier should be very happy with his new team. I look forward to seeing them in action.