The guiding force of Alberta’s new government is young, diverse and ready to get to work bringing renewed economic prosperity to the province, United Conservative Party Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday at a ceremony to swear in his first cabinet.
“We will focus relentlessly on creating good jobs, growing the economy and building pipelines — west, east and south — to get our products to market,” Kenney said after the official ceremony at Government House in Edmonton.
“We have many more commitments to keep — 375 to be precise — and we are eager to get to work today.”
Kenney has taken on the role of intergovernmental relations in what is expected to be a battle with the federal government over the carbon tax as well as proposed legislation that would ban heavy oil tankers and change how projects are environmentally assessed.
The cabinet includes 20 ministers and three associate ministers, one of whom will be devoted to the task of reducing red tape. Seven of the 23 members are returning MLAs.
The largest contingent came from Calgary, with 13 members, including the premier himself. The cabinet has seven women, and, as Kenney pointed out several times, four men named Jason. Edmonton’s lone UCP MLA, Kaycee Madu, was also named to cabinet.
The cabinet has one only representative from northern Alberta — Finance Minister Travis Toews, the MLA-elect for Grande Prairie-Wapiti. Southern Alberta has only one rural representative: Grant Hunter, the MLA-elect for Taber-Warner, was named associate minister in charge of reducing government red tape.
When asked about the unequal regional representation, Kenney said his cabinet had a good balance between veterans and newcomers as well as backgrounds.
“I know that Minister Toews, as minister of finance and president of the treasury board, is going to be a very strong voice for northern Alberta, as will I as premier,” he said.
Some veterans from the last legislature did not make cabinet, notably Drew Barnes from Cypress-Medicine Hat and Angela Pitt from Airdrie-East.
After the ceremony, Kenney planned to convene his first cabinet meeting. Proclaiming Bill 12 — the turn-off-the-taps legislation that was passed by the previous NDP government but never enacted into law — may have been on the agenda, though Kenney refused to confirm, citing cabinet secrecy.
Kenney said he doesn’t intend to use the measures in the bill right away.
“It is not our intention to reduce shipments or turn off the tap at this time,” he said. “We simply want to demonstrate that our government is serious about defending the vital economic interests of Alberta.”
Kenney told not to proclaim bill
Deron Bilous, the former economic development minister, said former premier Rachel Notley advised Kenney not to proclaim Bill 12.
“You only proclaim legislation like this when you plan to use it,” Bilous said, who will now sit in the NDP Official Opposition, along with party leader Notley. “If not, you could tie it up in court challenges for years.
“Albertans need a strategic premier, not an angry one.”
Bilous criticized Kenney for appointing a cabinet with only seven women among the 23 members. He said the cabinet lacks representation from Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Fort McMurray and only has one minister each from northern and southern Alberta.
He said Alberta’s new education minister, Adriana Lagrange, a former Catholic school trustee from Red Deer, is a “known opponent” of gay-straight alliances.
Bilous said the NDP plans to announce its critic positions in the next couple of days.
“Mr. Kenney’s cabinet is not going to have a free ride,” he said.
Repeal of carbon tax
Kenney also indicated he has no immediate plans to remove the annual 100-megatonne cap on oilsands emissions put in place by the previous NDP government.
Kenney called the move mostly an academic issue as Alberta is nowhere close to hitting it. He says other issues are more pressing.
“I don’t like a cap where no other country is doing it to themselves, but we are focused on immediate challenges to get people back to work,” he said. “That’s not one of them.”
The only non-negotiable item, Kenney said, is the repeal of Alberta’s carbon tax, which will be the first bill his government will introduce in the spring legislature session.
The new cabinet members are:
Solicitor General and Justice: Doug Schweitzer, Calgary-Elbow. Schweitzer is a lawyer who has specialized in bankruptcy and restructuring work.
Health: Tyler Shandro, Calgary-Acadia. Shandro is a lawyer who has worked with municipalities, developers and land owners. He has worked with provincial, federal and municipal politicians in various roles since 1993.
Transportation: Ric McIver, Calgary-Hays. McIver was formerly a Calgary city council member and was previously elected twice as a Conservative MLA, in 2012 and 2015, when he served as Alberta’s minister for transportation as well as infrastructure.
Economic Development, Trade and Tourism: Tanya Fir, Calgary-Peigan. She has worked in human resources with oil and gas companies.
Education: Adriana LaGrange, Red Deer-North. A mother of seven, she was a school trustee, owned a trucking company and ran a family farm. She was also president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association.
Treasury Board, Finance: Travis Toews, Grande Prairie-Wapiti. A former accountant, he co-owns a family cattle ranch and an oilfield environmental company.
Environment and Parks: Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. He was first elected as a Wildrose MLA in 2015. Prior to entering politics, he spent more than 25 years volunteering and working for The Mustard Seed non-profit, and has also operated a consulting business.
Agriculture and Forestry: Devin Dreeshen, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake. First elected in a byelection in 2018, he owns a consulting business advising agricultural stakeholders on trade issues.
Energy: Sonya Savage, Calgary-North West. She practiced law for 13 years before moving to a role in the pipeline sector for 12 years, including as senior director of policy and regulatory affairs for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.
Community and Social Services: Rajan Sawhney, Calgary-North East. The mother of four is a senior professional in the oil and gas industry who worked in the oilpatch for more than 20 years.
Seniors and Housing: Josephine Pon, Calgary-Beddington. She is a Realtor with a financial background, who worked in the banking industry for more than 20 years. She has also worked with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Children’s Services: Rebecca Schulz, Calgary-Shaw. She has a master’s degree from John Hopkins University and worked for former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
Indigenous Relations: Richard (Rick) Wilson, Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. He was a county councillor in the County of Wetaskiwin No. 10 and a school board trustee with Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools.
Advanced Education: Demetrios Nicolaides, Calgary-Bow. He was a university instructor, author and communications expert.
Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women: Leela Aheer, Chestermere-Strathmore. The former Wildrose MLA, first elected in 2015, has worked as a teacher and also owns or co-owns several small businesses.
Labour and Immigration: Jason Copping, Calgary-Varsity. He has worked as a management consultant and labour mediator.
Municipal Affairs: Kaycee Madu, Edmonton-South West. Edmonton’s only UCP MLA, he is a lawyer with experience in both solicitor and litigation practice. He has worked for Alberta Hospital, Legal Aid Alberta and the Government of Alberta.
Infrastructure: Prasad Panda, Calgary-Edgemont. Previously elected in a 2015 byelection for the former riding of Calgary-Foothills. A professional engineer by trade, Panda served as the UCP’s energy critic.
Service Alberta: Nate Glubish, Strathcona-Sherwood Park. He worked with a Vancouver-based venture capital fund and over the years was heavily involved in provincial politics with both the Conservative and Wildrose parties.
Associate Minister for Red Tape Reduction: Grant Hunter, Taber-Warner. He was first elected in 2015 and is a business owner.
Associate Minister of Natural Gas: Dale Nally, Morinville-St. Albert. He has private sector experience managing business units and is a volunteer for minor hockey.
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions: Jason Luan, Calgary-Foothills. He has worked as a social worker. He served as MLA from 2012-15 for Calgary-Hawkwood.
Other key appointments announced on Tuesday include:
- Muhammad Yaseen, parliamentary secretary of immigration.
- Jason Nixon, house leader.
- Doug Schweitzer, deputy house leader.
- Ric McIver, deputy house leader.
- Sonya Savage, deputy house leader.
- Mike Ellis, whip.
- Joseph Schow, deputy whip.
During the swearing-in ceremony, Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell took a moment to congratulate each new cabinet minister, reminding them that they are among a select few who take on the responsibilities of setting a new vision for the province.
“I know that you will honour this unique opportunity by sharing the very best of your abilities and ideas each and every day,” Mitchell said.
“Anything is possible in Alberta. That’s because we’ve never been a people to do things by half-measure or to shy away from a challenge. It is now your turn to set a vision and chart the very next way forward.”
The new cabinet was expected to have its first meeting immediately following the swearing-in ceremony.
Kenney’s UCP defeated the New Democrats in the provincial election April 16, when the party won 63 seats to the NDP’s 24. Former premier Notley has promised to stay on as opposition leader and will have an experienced caucus that includes 12 former cabinet ministers.
A new session of the legislature is set to begin May 21.
In a news release, Kenney called the new Alberta government one of the most youthful in Canada; the average age of cabinet is 43. Its diversity, he said, is represented by the 13 different languages spoken by the ministers, as well as Alberta’s first minister responsible for multiculturalism.
“Alberta’s new cabinet includes farmers, teachers, tradespeople, small business owners, lawyers, business executives, musicians, oil and gas experts, public servants and a range of other professional backgrounds,” Kenney said in the release.
“These ministers are in touch with the lives of the people they will be serving.”
This story originally appeared on CBC