Tag Archives: Cal Dallas

Jim Prentice appoints another Pipeline Obsessed Cabinet

Jim Prentice Pipeline Cabinet Oil Sands

Members of the PC cabinet, elected and non-elected, stand preparing to be sworn-in to their new jobs at Government House today.

As he prepared to be sworn-in as the 16th Premier of Alberta at Government House today, Jim Prentice aimed to project the image of a leader who is in command and in control of the situation. And today’s tightly controlled cabinet shuffle achieved that goal. Unlike previous cabinet shuffles, the news around today’s appointments was tightly sealed, with no leaks to the media to spoil Mr. Prentice’s opening day as Premier.

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Party Premier Leader

Jim Prentice

But did Mr. Prentice really give Albertans the change he promised with this cabinet shuffle? There are a few new faces in top positions and two unelected cabinet ministers from outside the Legislative Assembly, but at least fifteen of the twenty cabinet ministers previously served in the cabinets of Premier Alison Redford or Dave Hancock.

Without appointing a larger group of unelected cabinet ministers, he had little choice but to draw on the current pool of PC MLAs. If Albertans really want to see change in their government, they will have to do what people in every other province do from time to time: elect a new party to form government.

Viewed as having the endorsement of Corporate Calgary’s Oil Executives, Mr. Prentice’s choices for cabinet sends a message that the construction and expansion of oil sands pipelines will remain a priority for the Progressive Conservatives.

Frank Oberle MLA Peace River

Frank Oberle

As well as being Premier, Mr. Prentice takes on the role of Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Affairs, both important roles when dealing with the construction of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline through northern British Columbia and the TransCanada Energy East Pipeline to New Brunswick.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would pump raw bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to the port city of Kitimat, is facing stiff opposition in Alberta’s neighbouring province, especially from First Nations and environmental groups. Before entering the PC Party leadership race, Mr. Prentice worked for Enbridge as an envoy to B.C.’s First Nations communities.

Teresa Woo-Paw, the two-term MLA from north Calgary, is now the Associate Minister for Asia-Pacific Relations, an important position as the proposed pipeline would send Alberta’s raw bitumen to be refined and processed in Asia (likely in the People’s Republic of China).

Teresa Woo Paw MLA

Teresa Woo-Paw

How Mr. Prentice and Ms. Woo-Paw approach Alberta’s trade relations with Asian countries will also seal the fate of former cabinet minister Gary Mar, who was appointed as Alberta’s representative in Hong Kong after he was defeated in the 2011 Progressive Conservative leadership contest.

Expenses related to Mr. Mar’s patronage appointment have been harshly criticized by the opposition parties.

During Ms. Redford’s time as Premier, the Government of Alberta expanded trade operations in Asia, operating offices in China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. A new trade office was opened last year in Singapore and another will soon open in Mumbai, India.

Third-term Peace River MLA Frank Oberle is now Alberta’s Energy minister. It is unclear how Mr. Oberle will approach the role differently than his predecessors, but his connections to northern British Columbia may play a role in the government’s focus on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. Mr. Oberle’s father, Frank Oberle Sr. was the Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River from 1972 to 1993, serving as Minister of Forestry under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Kyle Fawcett MLA Calgary-Klein

Kyle Fawcett

His past relations with northern Albertans opposed to nuclear development may be an indication to how the new energy minister plans to approach opposition to pipeline expansion.

Serving as the defacto junior energy minister, Calgary MLA Kyle Fawcett was appointed as Environment & Sustainable Resource Development. Prone to embarrassing outbursts, Mr. “Leaky” Fawcett’s appointment suggests that Mr. Prentice might not be serious about tackling climate change and environmental issues linked to natural resource development.

The Auditor General reported in July that the Alberta Government has not been monitored its climate change targets and that its expensive carbon capture program is nowhere near meeting its targets for emission reductions. I sincerely hope that Mr. Fawcett sees his role as environment minister as more than a public relations activity for the government’s oil sands and pipeline expansion agenda.

On the environment and energy file, actions will speak louder than cabinet appointments.

Unelected Cabinet Ministers

Stephen Mandel Edmonton

Stephen Mandel

Mr. Prentice handed the helm of two very important ministries to individuals who have never been elected to the Alberta Legislature. Former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, 69, and former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Gordon Dirks, 67, were appointed to cabinet as Minister of Health and Minister of Education.

Mr. Mandel remains popular among many Edmontonians, and is expected to run in a by-election in Edmonton-Whitemud, the southwest Edmonton constituency made vacant following Mr. Hancock’s resignation last week. His tendency to show thin-skin when he does not get his way may prove challenging when having to compromise with his new cabinet and caucus colleagues, or his political opponents.

Mr. Dirks’ affiliations with a socially conservative evangelical church have raised the ire of his critics, who worry these views may impact his support of secular public education in Alberta. The appointment of the former Calgary Board of Education trustee and 1980s Saskatchewan politician was unexpected, to say the least.

It is suspected that Mr. Dirks will run for the PC Party nomination in the impending Calgary-Elbow by-election, triggered by Ms. Redford’s departure from political life. The nomination is also being contested by long-time PC Party activist Pat Walsh.

Who’s not welcome in Prentice’s cabinet?

Thomas Lukaszuk Alberta Edmonton MLA PC Leadership

Thomas Lukaszuk

Thomas Lukaszuk, Fred Horne, Doug Griffiths, Ken Hughes, Sandra Jansen are all names that many Albertans have become familiar with over the past few years. These former senior cabinet ministers will now occupy seats in the backbenches (and have their offices relocated from prime real estate in the Legislature Building to the aging and stuffy Legislature Annex).

Also demoted were former Finance minister Doug Horner, who will take on the role of “trade advisor” for the Premier and former International Affairs minister Cal Dallas, who will now serve as a “Legislative Secretary” for intergovernmental relations.

The resignation of Mr. Hancock last week took many political watchers by surprise. I am told by sources in the PC Party that Premier Hancock was informed by his party’s new leader that he would not be appointed to cabinet if he chose to remain as an MLA.

Rejection of Gay-Straight Alliances motion shows some Alberta MLAs need a reality check

Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to introduce legislation, like Manitoba’s and Ontario’s, requiring all school boards to develop policies to support students who want to lead and establish gay-straight alliance activities and organizations, using any name that is consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, and respectful for all students regardless of sexuality, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

It was a simple motion introduced on the floor of Alberta’s Legislative Assembly on April 7, 2014 that would help create safer environments for students in schools. Nineteen Liberal, New Democrat, and Progressive Conservative MLAs voted in favour of the motion, but it failed after 31 PC and Wildrose MLAs stood up and voted against it.

Kent Hehr MLA Calgary-Buffalo

Kent Hehr

Motion 503, introduced by Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr, was not a piece of binding legislation, it was a symbolic message of that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, can be welcomed and accepted in Alberta’s education system.

Creating safe and supportive environments for all students, including LGBTQ youth who may face discrimination in and outside of school, should be something that is encouraged by MLAs.

Mr. Hehr’s motion undoubtably would have made some social conservatives uncomfortable, but it would have ultimately helped drag some of Alberta’s more stodgy school boards into the 21st century. The motion would not have forced any school board to form student-led gay-straight alliances, but it would have compelled the elected boards to accept the existence of the groups if students in their schools chose to organize them.

Alberta MLA Vote Gay Straight Alliances Vote Motion 503

A map showing the constituencies represented by MLAs who voted in favour (blue) and against (red) Motion 503. White indicates MLAs who were not present for the vote. (Click to enlarge)

Passage of this motion would have sent a strong message that tolerance and acceptance are priorities Alberta’s provincial legislators.

Anti-bullying minister Sandra Jansen voted in favour but Education minister Jeff Johnson voted against it.

Missing from the vote were Premier Dave Hancock and NDP leader Brian Mason, who both later said they would have voted in favour had they been in the Assembly. Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith was not present for the vote and it is not clear if she would have voted differently than her party’s MLAs.

The divided PC government caucus also missed an opportunity to send a clear message that they embrace 21st century values by singling out the opposition Wildrose as the only party to unanimously vote against the motion – and remind Albertans of the infamous Lake of Fire.  And for the Wildrose, a vote for the motion, even by one or two of that party’s MLAs, would have done a lot of demonstrate the party is more moderate on social issues than its opponents claim.

In total, 36 MLAs were absent from the vote (minus the Speaker, who abstains from votes of the Assembly).

Voted in Favour: 19
Deron Bilous (NDP)
Laurie Blakeman (LIB)
Neil Brown (PC)
Pearl Calahasen (PC)
Cal Dallas (PC)
Alana DeLong (PC)
David Eggen (NDP)
Kyle Fawcett (PC)
Kent Hehr (LIB)
Ken Hughes (PC)
Sandra Jansen (PC)
Heather Klimchuk (PC)
Jason Luan (PC)
Thomas Luksazuk (PC)
Rachel Notley (NDP)
Don Scott (PC)
Raj Sherman (LIB)
David Swann (LIB)
Teresa Woo-Paw (PC)
Voted against: 31
Moe Amery (PC)
Rob Anderson (WR)
Drew Barnes (WR)
Gary Bikman (WR)
Robin Campbell (PC)
Ron Casey (PC)
Christine Cusanelli (PC)
Ian Donovan (WR)
David Dorward (PC)
Wayne Drysdale (PC)
Jacquie Fenske (PC)
Rick Fraser (PC)
Yvonne Fritz (PC)
Hector Goudreau (PC)
Jeff Johnson (PC)
Linda Johnson (PC)
Maureen Kubinec (PC)
Genia Leskiw (PC)
Bruce McAllister (WR)
Everett McDonald (PC)
Diana McQueen (PC)
Frank Oberle (PC)
Bridget Pastoor (PC)
Dave Rodney (PC)
Bruce Rowe (WR)
Shayne Saskiw (WR)
Richard Starke (PC)
Rick Strankman (WR)
Kerry Towle (WR)
George VanderBurg (PC)
Greg Weadick (PC)

Redford Tories big international travellers in January 2014

Alberta MLA Travel

Since November 2011, Alberta’s cabinet ministers and government MLAs have travelled to 24 countries on official government business. By the end of January 2014, it will be 26.

Alberta’s Progressive Conservative MLAs are kicking off another year of international travel as Premier Alison Redford, cabinet ministers and backbenchers check their luggage and rack up the air mile points with flights touching down at all points across the globe.

Departing on January 9, Ms. Redford will circle the globe on a sixteen day trip that will see her visit New Dehli, Mumbai and Bangalore, India and then to Davos, Switzerland to promote Alberta’s oil. She will be joined at the beginning of her trip by Intergovernmental Affairs minister Cal Dallas, Human Services minister Manmeet Bhullar and Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA Naresh Bhardwaj at the Petrotech 2014 conference.

Mr. Bhullar and Mr. Bhardwaj will join Ms. Redford for her trip to India (Update: No public itinerary has been released for Mr. Bhullar and Mr. Bhardwaj’s trip to India, so it is unclear how long they will be travelling through that country), but Mr. Dallas will split off the from the premier with a visit to Singapore. In May 2012, the Alberta government announced plans to open new trade offices in India and Singapore, as well as in Brazil and the United States.

Labour minister Thomas Lukaszuk will visit Harbin, Shanghai and Hangzhou, China from January 3 to 10, where he will sign memorandums of understanding with Chinese government science departments and attend the opening ceremony of the Harbin Ice Festival.  It is unclear whether he will learn about the People’s Republic approach to workplace safety and workers rights to fit with his new role as Labour minister.

This will be the fourth visit to Harbin by an Alberta cabinet minister since 2012.

Agriculture minister Verlyn Olson leaves for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma today to attend the Minister at the Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit. Mr. Olson will be accompanied by Stony Plain MLA Ken Lemke. They are scheduled to return to Alberta on January 6.

Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Dave Quest and Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA David Dorward are heading to sunny San Antonio, Texas to attend a Ports-to-Plains Alliance meeting from January 5 to 8.

Fourth-term PC backbencher Alana DeLong is headed on two trips this month. The Calgary-Bow MLA will attend Pacific North West Economic Region legislative visits in Olympia, Washington and Boise, Idaho from January 13 to 16 and in Juneau, Alaska from January 21 to 23.

The estimated cost for these international trips, including travel, accommodation and meals for politicians and staff in January 2014 is estimated at $218,160.

Map: MLA travel from November 2011 to December 2013


View Alberta Cabinet Minister and MLA Travel November 2011-December 2013 in a larger map

Since my last update in September 2013, government cabinet ministers and MLAs made trips to Istanbul, San Antonio, Washington DC, Shanghai, Harbin, Seoul, Daegu, Beijing, Tokyo, Chicago, Warsaw and London. Since November 2011, Alberta’s cabinet ministers and MLAs have travelled to 24 countries on official government business. By the end of January 2014, it will be 26.

BC approves the Alberta pipeline to China

Pacific Shipping Lanes Alberta to ChinaPremier Alison Redford can celebrate a victory today as her Canadian Energy Strategy earned the public support of British Columbia Premier Christy Clark. Only mere hours after cancelling a meeting that had been arranged to discuss the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline from Alberta to BC, the two premiers announced that they had agreed on a framework for the pipeline that would allow for the easier sea export of unrefined Canadian oil to countries in Asia, including China. This does not mean the pipeline is approved, but it does signal that Ms. Clark is unlikely to be a roadblock.

An agreement to open “new markets” satisfies four of Ms. Clark’s five requirements for BC to consider support for heavy oil pipelines to be approved. A press release issued by the Ms. Redford’s office reported that to reach Ms. Clark’s fifth condition, that BC recieve a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of the proposed pipeline, ‘Alberta agrees that B.C. has a right to negotiate with industry on appropriate economic benefits.’ The release also stated that both governments ‘reaffirmed that Alberta’s royalties are not on the table for negotiation.’ The results of this agreement shifts the pressure to the energy companies to provide a satisfactory fiscal and economic compensation to the BC government.

In May 2013, the BC government’s submission to the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel on the Northern Gateway Project claimed that it could not support the pipeline because Enbridge had “presented little evidence about how it will respond in the event of a spill.” While the National Energy Board, not the BC government, is responsible for environmental assessment of the project, it remains unclear what convinced Ms. Clark to change her mind.

The two premiers had publicly quarrelled over the pipeline project and Ms. Clark made the five requirements a key part of her Liberal Party’s campaign platform in the recent provincial election. While her party won re-election and the opposition NDP are choosing a new leader, it would be foolish to expect there will be no opposition to the pipeline in BC. Many northern communities, First Nations, and environmental groups in BC have pledged to stall the construction of the pipeline to the Pacific coast.

EcoJustice is raising concerns about how increased oil tanker traffic caused by the Northern Gateway Pipeline could impact a new Humpback whale recovery strategy and four critical habitats that have been identified for protection. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans currently lists the Humpback Whale as a species at risk in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, questions have also been raised about the role that China’s state-owned oil companies could play in the construction of the project. While the state-owned PetroChina initially withdrew from the proposed project in 2007, the corporation announced in 2012 that it would bid to build the pipeline once the project was approved by regulatory authorities.

Looking southward, Ms. Redford and International Affairs Minister Cal Dallas are returning to Washington D.C. to lobby United States Senators, Representatives, and the State Department to approve the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas.

A Government of Alberta press release announcing the trip quoted North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who welcomes Ms. Redford visit to Washington D.C. This is at least the fifteenth trip made by Alberta government ministers to the American capital since Ms. Redford became Premier in 2012.

Burying the ghosts of the dreaded National Energy Program, Federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau surprised many political watchers last month with his support for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Mr. Trudeau voiced his support for the project while speaking on a panel that included former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gilliard and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a conference in Washington D.C. hosted by the Centre for American Progress.

Bitumen bubble deflates as Redford visits Washington D.C.

Alberta Bitumen Oil Bubble

Photo may not reflect actual “bitumen bubble.”

Remember the “Bitumen Bubble?”

The “bitumen bubble” spin was unleashed by Premier Alison Redford during her January 24, 2013 televised address that claimed our province was in the midst of a fiscal crisis caused by the so-called “bitumen bubble” — the difference between the price Alberta can get for its heavy oil (Western Canadian Select) and what the world is willing to pay for Texas crude (West Texas Intermediate).

On the day of Premier Redford’s January televised address, Western Canadian Select sat at $59.95 per barrel, compared to $95.95 per barrel for the West Texas Intermediate.

Albertans were told this price gap was why our oil industry needs more pipelines and why our provincial government claimed it needed to institute financial cuts to public services, including a drastic 7% cut to post-secondary education funding.

As of April 8, 2013, Western Canadian Select sat at $82.97 per barrel, compared to $93.36 per barrel for West Texas Intermediate.

Premier Alison Redford

Premier Alison Redford

By some act of nature, the dreaded “bitumen bubble” has miraculously deflated.

Alas, this price increase has little to nothing to do with our long-ruling Progressive Conservative government. Commodity prices are determined by international markets beyond the control of any individual government or ambitious politician.

No new pipelines have been built in the meantime, but Premier Redford, along with International Relations Minister Cal Dallas and Environment Minister Diana McQueen, traveled to Washington D.C. this week to lobby for the approval of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline that would carry crude oil and bitumen from Alberta to refineries dotting Texas’ Gulf Coast.

I expect the Premier has left the words “bitumen bubble” out of any speeches she plans make while visiting the American capital.

During her speech at the prestigious Brookings Institute yesterday, Premier Redford argued the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline has misled Americans about Canada’s oilsands. The Premier promoted Alberta’s new proposed carbon tax, defended the province’s environmental record, and championed the investment in two major Carbon Capture and Storage project (she did not mention that two other major projects have been cancelled due to poor economic predictions).

Making a strong case for Alberta’s environmental record, Premier Redford’s economic arguments fell flat. She claimed that the Keystone XL Pipeline would create 75,000 jobs for Americans, despite the fact that a U.S. State Department reported the number of new permanent jobs could be as few as thirty-five once the pipeline is complete.

Premier Redford also argued that the Keystone XL Pipeline would lessen America’s dependance on countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia for oil imports. As the proposed pipeline would end at major Texas ports, it is widely suspected that the corporations that would own the Alberta oil refined in Texas could easily ship it overseas to China or India, rather than sell it in the United States or Canada.

Premier Redford’s fact-based talk was heavy in statistics, which unfortunately will have little effect on a national discussion about the environment and economy that is driven heavily by emotional arguments on both sides of the debate (as demonstrated by the hecklers at her speech). At least Albertans can be proud our leaders have come a long way since Premier Ralph Klein compared the causes of today’s climate change problems to “dinosaur farts” sixty-million years ago.

Sitting at 29% approval in a recent Angus-Reid survey, Premier Redford is searching for a win in the American capital that could boost her popularity at home. Even if the Keystone XL Pipeline is approved, there will be no evidence that Premier Redford’s lobbying was the reason for its success. That decision will be made by President Barack Obama.

———–

The Wall Street Journal:

President Obama hit California for some fundraising this week, including stops with various billionaires who fervently oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. The visit had the virtue of showing how Mr. Obama is cross-pressured between his superrich green friends who don’t need to worry about a job and the blue-collar types who wouldn’t mind laying oil pipe for $25 an hour.

Where in the world are Tory cabinet ministers?

Brussels, Bucharest, and Juneau are three international destinations where Tory MLAs were scheduled to visit during Government of Alberta sponsored trips today.

Environment and Sustainable Resources Minister Diana McQueen and Intergovernmental and International Relations Minister Cal Dallas have embarked on a pan-European tour, meeting with business and government leaders in a handful of continental counties. Backbench Tory MLA Richard Starke, from Vermilion-Lloydminster, is on government business in Juneau, Alaska.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Fred Horne is scheduled to depart for a trip that will take him to Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

On October 1, 2012, I published a Google Map, tracking the travel of Alberta’s Tory cabinet minister and MLAs on government business. Here is an updated map, which includes all published scheduled government of Alberta travel by cabinet ministers and MLAs from November 2011 to February 2013.


View Alberta Cabinet Minister and MLA Travel November 2011-February 2013 in a larger map

Trips added since November 2012 include Middle-Eastern travel by Minister Dallas, trips to the United States by Calgary-Bow MLA Alana DeLong, Calgary-Foothills MLA Len Webber, and Strathcona-Sherwood Park MLA Dave Quest, a trip to Chicago by Premier Alison Redford and the four trips mentioned at the beginning of this post.

As I wrote in October, I understand the value of sending cabinet ministers on these trips to promote our province abroad and I generally believe it is in our best interest, but there reaches a certain point when return on investment needs to be demonstrated.

Map: Alberta cabinet ministers catch the international travel bug.

“The Redford government spent more than half a million dollars on its trip to the London Olympics earlier this year, including about $113,000 in hotel rooms that were not used…” – Edmonton Journal reporter Keith Gerein

According to the Journal, the $518,280 trip sent 29 Albertans to London including Tory Premier Alison Redford, Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Minister Christine Cusanelli, government officials, artists and performers including Corb Lund and Donovan Workun.

While the trip to the London Olympics has sticker shock, it is small potatoes in comparison to the Government of Alberta’s $14 million splash at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where Premier Ed Stelmach and cabinet ministers hosted Olympic attendees on a $499 per ticket luxury train to Whistler and showered them with gifts that included iPod Touchs and White Cowboy Hats.

I understand the value of sending cabinet ministers on these trips to promote our province abroad and I generally believe it is in our best interest, but there reaches a certain point when return on investment needs to be demonstrated.

Over the past eleven months, Premier Redford, cabinet ministers,  and backbench Tory MLAs have traveled extensively on government business. The trips have taken Alberta Government officials to five continents and more than twelve countries, including numerous trips to Washington DC, New York, and Hong Kong.

I have created a Google Map tracking the international travel of Premier Redford, cabinet ministers, and backbench Tory MLAs since November 2011. Zoom in and click the icons to read who traveled where and when.


View Alberta Cabinet Minister and MLA Travel November 2011-October 2012 in a larger map

Note: Travel dates and locations listed on this map were found in media releases published on the Government of Alberta website.

alison redford and her new cabinet could lead a new urban agenda.

Alberta Cabinet Ministers Premier Redford

Premier Alison Redford's new cabinet ministers (photos from premierofalberta Flickr feed).

Premier Alison Redford appointed her post-election cabinet ministers today after forgoing an initial press release and announcing them on Twitter. These picks and the legislation they will bring forward over the next four years will shape the direction Premier Redford wants to take her Progressive Conservative Party into the next election.

The new cabinet will face a new Wildrose Party Official Opposition, which is dominated by rookie MLA’s from rural southern and central Alberta constituencies.

The bleeding of large portions of the PC Party’s rural social conservative wing to Danielle Smith’s Wildrose Party in the April 2011 election could be a blessing for Premier Redford and her government. Keeping the Wildrose Party electorally contained in the rural south and central regions of the province, while focusing on issues that will appeal to the rapidly growing and diverse urban populations in Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton could be a solid strategy to provide a more forward-looking government agenda and preserve the PC Party’s electoral dominance in the coming decades.

In the three years leading into this year’s election, the Wildrose proved extremely successful in using wedge issues like property rights and the construction of electrical transmission lines to drive traditional PC voters in rural southern and central Alberta constituencies into their electoral camp. If they have not already, the PC brain trust should take note of similar strategies that will keep the Wildrose Party at bay in urban centres.

 No longer forced to appease a more conservative rural base of MLAs and supporters, Premier Redford has an opportunity to lead a new urban agenda for Alberta, especially with the urban-based Liberal and NDP opposition pushed to the margins. With potential strong allies in Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, Premier Redford could make strides on issues like reinvesting in Alberta’s Heritage Fund and investing in urban public transit and transportation infrastructure.

If expected patterns of population growth continue, it is the urban areas which will receive additional constituencies in the Alberta Legislature when the boundaries are redistributed.

New cabinet:

Alison Redford – Premier
Thomas Lukaszuk – Deputy Premier
Doug Horner – Minister of Finance & President of Treasury Board
Dave Hancock – Minister of Human Services
Cal Dallas – Minister of International & Intergovernmental Relations
Diana McQueen – Minister of Environment & Sustainable Resource Development
Fred Horne – Minister of Health
Ken Hughes – Minister of Energy
Jeff Johnson – Minister of Education
Verlyn Olson – Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Jonathan Denis – Minister of Justice & Solicitor General
Doug Griffiths – Minister of Municipal Affairs
Robin Campbell – Minister of Aboriginal Relations
Heather Klimchuk – Minister of Culture
Manmeet Bhullar – Minister of Service Alberta
Wayne Drysdale – Minister of Infrastructure
Stephen Khan – Minister of Enterprise & Advanced Education
Ric McIver – Minister of Transportation
Christine Cusanelli – Minster of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation

alison redford appoints gary mar’s cabinet.

Alberta cabinet ministers

Tory MLAs gather for the traditional game musical chairs to choose the new Cabinet.

Do you think Gary Mar left a draft cabinet list in the Premier’s Office when he was measuring the drapes? Because Premier Alison Redford found it.

We were told to expect big changes, that many “household names” would be dropped from cabinet, but as they enter their new jobs, Premier Alison Redford‘s cabinet looks like one that should have been made by her main leadership opponent Gary Mar.

Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne‘s appointment as Minister of Health and Wellness and Ron Liepert‘s appointment as Finance Minister means that there will be no serious judicial inquiry into the intimidation of health care workers. Minister Liepert’s promotion from Energy to Finance is surprising considering that only last week he was openly defying Premier Redford on the need for a health care inquiry. Both Mr. Horne and Mr. Liepert were strong supporters of Mr. Mar in the leadership contest and would have likely ended up in similar positions had he not been defeated on the third ballot vote on October 1.

It has yet to be seen what new powers Minister Liepert will hold as Finance Minister. Remember that in recent cabinets, the President of the Treasury Board has held considerable sway over the province’s purse-strings. This could mean that ‘Liepert the Hound‘ could turn into ‘Liepert the Pup‘ when dealing with the current Treasury Board President and Deputy Premier Doug Horner.

New Alberta Cabinet Map

A map of the constituencies represented by members of Alberta's new cabinet.

Former Finance Minister Ted Morton is moving into the Energy Minister’s office, an area where he will be comfortable defending the province’s record on oil sands development. New Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk is a cabinet lightweight who will have to be a quick study if he wants to survive in his new job. He and Premier Redford started things off right this afternoon with the announcement adding $100 million into the education budget today. Both Minister Morton and Minister Lukaszuk supported Mr. Mar on the final ballot of the PC leadership contest.

The appointment of Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths as Minister of Municipal Affairs could turn out to be an interesting choice. Minister Griffiths, who was defeated on the first ballot of the PC leadership contest and has never served in cabinet, comes with both inexperience and an open-mind. Despite his rural pedigree, I would not discount his ability to build relationships with the group of young municipal leaders who have been elected in recent years, including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson.

The appointment of Edmonton-Whitemud MLA and long-time cabinet minister Dave Hancock (also a Mar loyalist) as Minister of the new Human Services super-ministry is a smart choice. Minister Hancock is a seasoned govern0r who may be the only MLA who can help weave and organize this newly formed portfolio, which includes Children and Youth Services, Employment and Immigration (except for immigration), Homelessness, Alberta Supports (from Seniors and Community Supports).

Rewarded for his most (if only) significant political decision is backbench MLA Art Johnston, who was appointed Parliamentary Assistant to Executive Council (which means he gets to carry Premier Redford’s briefing binder in the Assembly). Mr. Johnston was the only MLA to support Ms. Redford on the first ballot of the PC leadership vote.

Some much needed new blood around the cabinet table includes Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen as Minister of Environment and Water, Calgary-Montrose MLA Manmeet Bhullar as Minister of Service Alberta, Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson as Minister of Infrastructure, and Red Deer-South MLA Cal Dallas as Minister of International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations.

Notable cabinet ministers joining the great unwashed masses in the Tory backbenches include Sherwood Park MLA Iris Evans, Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Lloyd Snelgrove, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Ouellette, Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA Gene Zwozdesky, Calgary-Cross MLA Yvonne Fritz, Calgary-Shaw MLA Cindy Ady, and Medicine Hat MLA Rob Renner. It would not be surprising to see these now backbench MLAs and others decide to collect their million dollar severance packages and not stand in the next election.

Not to be unexpected, it did not take long for the rumour mill to start suggesting what next steps these former cabinet ministers might take. If he is not retiring, one rumour I heard today suggests that Mr. Zwozdesky may seek re-election and challenge Speaker Ken Kowalski for his position in the Assembly after the next election.

Avoiding one of former Premier Ed Stelmach‘s first mistakes, this cabinet reaches a respectable geographical balance. Four cabinet minister each from Calgary and Edmonton and the remaining twelve spread across the province.

cabinet building and the game of politics in alberta.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones

With the coming of a new Premier, the great game of cabinet building is underway and the politicians are jockeying for their positions. As reported by the Edmonton Journal, the competition to woo the new Queen of Alberta politics took the form of hugs and cheers at today’s Tory caucus meeting, the first since Premier-designate Alison Redford won the Progressive Conservative leadership on October 1.

Geography, gender, experience, competency, and political loyalty are a few of the many factors that are taken into account when building a cabinet. The need to put a new face on the cabinet will certainly leave some veteran MLAs mispleased with the appointments, which are expected to take place next week. Two position are already assured to Doug Horner as Deputy Premier and Dave Hancock as House leader.

Idle speculation over coffee (or mead and meat if we were in King’s Landing) with David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, led to the creation of three speculative lists of “who’s in” the cabinet, “too soon to tell” what their future is, and “who’s out” the next provincial cabinet.

The first two of the three groups are listed below and are our contribution to what is sure to be at the centre of debate among members of Premier Redford’s transition team. The third group, which I will not list on this blog, we hope will be chaired by the always affable and cheery hopefully-soon-to-be-former cabinet minister Ron Liepert.

Who’s in?

Doug Horner – Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert (Already announced Deputy Premier, could be appointed Finance Minister)
Dave Hancock – Edmonton-Whitemud (Already appointed as House Leader)
Ted Morton – Foothills-Rockyview (lock the gun cabinet, keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer)
Ray Danyluk – Lac La Biche-St. Paul (Flexed his political muscle by drawing largest vote in his constituency in the PC leadership contest)
Robin Campbell – West Yellowhead
Dave Rodney – Calgary-Lougheed
Cal Dallas – Red Deer-South (from Red Deer and not Mary Ann Jablonski)
Kyle Fawcett – Calgary-North Hill (Supported Doug Griffiths on the first ballot and Redford on the second ballot)
Yvonne Fritz – Calgary-Cross (competent cabinet minister)
Jack Hayden – Drumheller-Stettler (to satisfy the rural vote)
Cindy Ady – Calgary-Shaw (to satisfy the Mormon vote)
Jeff Johnson – Athabasca-Redwater (New blood)
Art Johnston – Calgary-Hays (rewarded for being the only MLA to support Redford on the first ballot)
Diana McQueen – Drayton Valley-Calmar (Supported Horner and is a rising star in the PC caucus)
Frank Oberle – Peace River (Stays in Solicitor General)
Verlyn Olsen – Wetaskiwin-Camrose (Justice Minister)
Luke Ouellette – Innisfail-Sylvan Lake (hugged Redford at today’s caucus meeting)
Janice Sarich – Edmonton-Decore (Education Minister)

Too soon to tell

Thomas Lukaszuk – Edmonton-Castle Downs
Lloyd Snelgrove – Vermilion-Lloydminster
Doug Elniski – Edmonton-Calder (supported Redford, but has made questionable comments on women’s rights)
Greg Weadick – Lethbridge-West
Len Webber – Calgary-Foothills
Manmeet Bhullar – Calgary-Montrose
Genia Leskiw – Bonnyville-Cold Lake
Lindsay Blackett – Calgary-North West
Gene Zwozdesky – Edmonton-Mill Creek (the fixer)

Will all these MLAs make into the provincial cabinet next week? Perhaps not, but it is always fun to speculate what might come next in the increasingly interesting the game of politics in Alberta…

alberta politics notes 3/18/2011

AMA President Dr. Patrick White

Public Inquiry.
As a third case of doctor intimidation was made public, opposition MLAs continued their chorus calls for a full public inquiry. The Health Quality Council of Alberta released the terms of reference for the investigation ordered by Premier Ed Stelmach last week. Meanwhile, the opposition held up a letter from Alberta Medical Association President Patrick White in Question Period today claiming that even the doctors’ union wanted a public inquiry. According to the Globe & Mail’s Josh Wingrove, Dr. White later clarified that the AMA is not calling for a public inquiry, but would support one if it were called.

The debate among politicians has shifted to now focus on doctors intimidation and away from the focus on patient outcomes that dominated the debate during the 2010 Fall session of the Assembly.

Mar enters, Redford makes a mark.
Former cabinet minister Gary Mar entered the PC leadership contest with a slick campaign speech, his own Twitter hashtag – #GOGARY, and an endorsement from cabinet minister Iris Evans. Candidate Alison Redford distanced herself from her party’s unpopular property rights legislation, criticising the Land Stewardship Act for not having “the appropriate balance” between the rights of individual property owners, industry and environment.

Former MLA supports Raj for Liberal leader
Conservative MLA turned Liberal leadership hopeful Dr. Raj Sherman has the support of at least one former Liberal MLA. Bharat Agnihotri, who served as MLA for Edmonton-Ellerslie from 2004 to 2008, left a gushing endorsement on Dr. Sherman’s Facebook wall.

Meanwhile, another former Liberal MLA, Maurice Tougas, takes a more critical look at Dr. Sherman’s politics.

Gibson’s back, not going quietly.
Former Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson is suing the Government of Alberta after his sudden dismissal in March 2009. Mr. Gibson was dismissed from his role after releasing two reports with over 100 recommendations on how to improve Alberta’s election laws. Seen by many as a scapegoat, his dismissal was the result of a vote by PC MLAs at the Standing Committee of Legislative Offices.

Chima Nkemdirim at the 2010 Alberta Party conference.

Draft Chima
He says that he is not interested, but that is not stopping his supporters from trying to convince Chima Nkemdirim to join the Alberta Party leadership contest. A Calgary-based lawyer and smart growth advocate, Mr. Nkemdirim was the campaign manager for Naheed Nenshi‘s successful Mayoral campaign and now serves as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff. Mr. Nkemdirim is the former President and a founder of the new Alberta Party. Other candidates in the race are Calgarians Tammy Maloney and Chris Tesarski, and Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor.

More candidate nominations…
I have updated the list of declared provincial election candidates

The Calgary-Foothills Wildrose nomination has attracted two candidates, Dustin Nau and Walter Wakula. Foothills is represented by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Len Webber, who has also been nominated as his party candidate for the next election. Said Abdulbaki will seek the Wildrose nomination against Chestermere Town Councillor Heather Davies in Chestermere-RockyviewJohn Hilton-O’Brien in Calgary-Bow. Mr. Hilton-O’Brien will be facing Tim Dyck in his party’s nomination contest. Bow is represented by backbench PC MLA Alana DeLong, who was first elected in 2001. Beiseker Mayor Bruce Rowe has announced his intentions to seek the Wildrose nomination in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.

The Liberals will nominate candidates in Calgary-Foothills on April 8 and Edmonton-Riverview on April 15 , where Arif Khan is the only declared candidate.

Meanwhile, a number of PC MLAs have been nominated for the next election: Mary Anne Jablonski in Red Deer-North, Cal Dallas in Red Deer-South, Yvonne Fritz in Calgary-Cross, Manmeet Bhullar in Calgary-Greenway, and Naresh Bhardwaj in Edmonton-Ellerslie.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

alberta politics notes 3/04/2011

Three years later.
What a change three years can make. On March 3, 2008, Premier Ed Stelmach led the PCs to a massive majority, winning 72 of 83 seats in the Assembly. The sweep saw the Kevin Taft led Liberals halved from 16 MLAs to 9 MLAs and that party’s stronghold in Edmonton wither to three seats, Brian Mason‘s NDP were reduced from 4 to 2 MLAs, and the Wildrose Alliance‘s leader and only MLA Paul Hinman was defeated in Cardston-Taber-Warner (he would later be elected in the 2009 Calgary-Glenmore by-election). The election also marked the lowest voter-turnout in Alberta’s history as almost 60% of Albertans did not exercise the vote.

Alberta MPs caught in campaign scandal
A staffer in Calgary-Southeast Conservative MP and Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney‘s office in Ottawa has resigned after being caught using ministerial letterhead to solicit donations for the Conservative Party.

The letter was discovered when it was accidentally delivered to Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan‘s Ottawa office. Unfortunately for Ms. Duncan, her office does not have much moral authority on this issue. In February 2010, a conservative blogger discovered that Ms. Duncan’s Constituency Assistant and Campaign Manager Erica Bullwinkle had used her Parliamentary email account for campaign purposes.

More Tories join Wildrose
Former Finance Minister Lyle Oberg is not the only former Tory member to join the Wildrose Alliance. Perennial Edmonton PC nomination candidate Ian Crawford has also signed up for a Wildrose membership. Mr. Crawford, who last ran unsuccessfully for the PC nomination in Edmonton-Meadowlark against Raj Sherman and (now-Liberal Party executive) Debbie Cavaliere in 2007, is the son of former PC cabinet minister Neil Crawford.

Liberals tackle health care
The Liberals are without a long-term leader, but that has not stopped them from focusing on health care – an issue I believe could be their ticket back to relevance before the next election, especially while the Wildrose continues to push for increased privatization inside the health care system.

Gary Mar
Alberta’s representative in Washington DC, former cabinet minister Gary Mar, has been expected to announce his entry into the PC leadership contest for the past few weeks. Mr. Mar’s website domain name was registered by a supporter in January and he recently popped up on Facebook with a brand new profile page (I have sent in a friend request).

 

Gary Mar has joined Facebook (and Ted Morton ads).

AHS Chair joining PC contest?
Alberta Health Services Chairman Ken Hughes‘ name has been bandied around as a potential candidate for the PC leadership contest. The former PC MP and insurance industry executive has reportedly been testing the waters through phone polls over the past few weeks.

Immunity challenge
Raj Sherman, serious allegations, wants immunity.

Deputy Pastoor
Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor replaced Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman as Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition this week. Ms. Blakeman, who is seeking the Liberal leadership, will continue in her other critic roles.

Nominations
I have updated the list of nominated and declared election candidates to include two PC MLAs who were nominated this week, PC leadership candidate and former Justice Minister Allison Redford was chosen as her party’s candidate in Calgary-Elbow at a nomination meeting this week. Ms. Redford was first elected in 2008, unseating Liberal MLA Craig Cheffins in a close-fought campaign. Elbow was represented by Ralph Klein from 1989 until his resignation in 2007, when Mr. Cheffins was elected in a by-election.

Red Deer-South PC MLA Cal Dallas won his party’s nomination in the constituency he was first elected to represent in 2008.

YouTube
The Calgary Herald has been posting a number of YouTube video interviews on their website. In this one, pollster Janet Brown offers some thoughts on the PC leadership contest:

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

alberta politics notes 2/18/2011

Robbing Peter to pay Paul…
…or robbing the Liberals and NDP to pay the Wildrose Alliance. The PC MLA-dominated Legislative committee responsible for allocating funds to Assembly caucuses voted to give in to Wildrose Alliance demands for increased caucus funding, but it came at the expense of the other three parties caucuses. While the 67 MLA PC caucus will barely notice the decrease, the slightest decrease in funding is the difference between a one more staff member or not for the opposition caucuses. Chalk this one up to another round of institutional micro-management and political games by Speaker Ken Kowalski.

New Justice Minister Verlyn Olson.

Cabinet Shuffle
A cabinet shuffle led to two first term backbench MLAs replacing two Cabinet Ministers seeking the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson replaces Alison Redford as Justice Minister and Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick replaces Doug Horner as Minister of Advanced Education & Technology. Red Deer-South MLA Cal Dallas replaces Doug Griffiths as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, who is now Minister Lloyd Snelgrove.

Readers may remember Mr. Olson from his controversial motion on the Public Accounts Committee in 2010, which tried to strip the autonomy of the committee’s chairman, Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald. Fun fact: Mr. Weadick is a decedent of Guy Weadick, the founder of the Calgary Stampede.

Calgary’s new Political Minister
Filling Ms. Redford’s former position as political minister for Calgary is long-time Calgary-Cross MLA and Minister of Children & Youth Services Yvonne Fritz.

Bitumen!
The Provincial Government and North West Upgrading announced that a deal had been reached to begin the construction of the first phase of a new upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan. Premier Ed Stelmach called it “a bold step”, but that was not good enough for NDP MLA Brian Mason. Mr. Mason made the point of attacking Premier Stelmach, saying that despite past promises to keep upgrading jobs in Alberta, more jobs have moved to the United States.

Blakeman aims for Liberal leadership
Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman announced yesterday that she is seeking the Liberal leadership. The four-term opposition MLA is the first candidate to enter the contest to replace outgoing leader David Swann. In her speech yesterday, Ms. Blakeman, the party’s Deputy Leader, explained that she had toyed with the idea of joining the new Alberta Party, but later decided to stay with her current party.

Ms. Blakeman is one half of an Edmonton political power couple with her husband Ben Henderson, who is the City Councillor for Ward 8.


Ms. Blakeman’s second V-log takes a creative angle at explaining the political spectrum.

Lukaszuk weighing his options
A well-placed source has informed this blogger that Employment & Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has been weighing his options about joining the PC leadership contest.

Second Alberta Party leadership candidate
Calgarian Tammy Maloney has announced that she is seeking the Alberta Party leadership. Ms. Maloney is an entrepreneur, a former Oil & Gas business analyst and IESE MBA. She also worked for the Clinton Foundation in Nigeria. Ms. Maloney’s only other challenger so far is Hinton Mayor Glenn Taylor, who entered the contest two weeks ago.

Unions call for fair revenue
At a joint media conference yesterday morning, the Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, United Nurses of Alberta Vice-President Bev Dick, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees President Guy Smith, and Health Sciences Association of Alberta President Elisabeth Ballermann called for the Auditor General to investigate the amount of natural resource royalties collected by the provincial government. In advance of next week’s provincial budget, the Union leaders want an open debate about Alberta’s revenue challenges.

Carter: smooth political operator
Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson focused his latest column on the strategies of paid political operative Stephen Carter. Mr.Carter, who is known for his work for the Wildrose Alliance and Naheed Nenshi‘s campaign, is a high-profile hire on Ms. Redford’s PC leadership campaign. Watch out Rod Love, at this rate Mr. Carter is becoming Alberta’s next biggest celebrity political operative.

PC leadership candidate Ted Morton hunting for conservative votes.

Morton country no more?
An editorial in the Rocky View Weekly questions whether former Finance Minister Ted Morton will receive the kind of support from Airdrie-Chestermere Tories in the current PC leadership contest that he did in 2006. Five years ago Mr. Morton earned the support of 57% of PC members in that constituency, with 26% supporting Jim Dinning and 17% supporting Premier Stelmach. With the constituency now represented by Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, it will be interesting to see if conservative voters in that area are still comfortable with Mr. Morton or whether they have found a new political home.

Nomination updates: Calgary Varsity and Edmonton-Centre
The list of declared and nominated candidates for the next provincial election has been updated. The nomination contest to replace two-term Calgary-Varisty Liberal MLA Harry Chase looks to be an acclamation. The only candidate to step forward appears to be Bruce Payne, a Business Representative with Carpenters’ Union, Local 2103 in Calgary. Mr. Chase surprised many political watchers when he grabbed the seat from the PCs in a close election in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008 defeating PC Jennifer Diakiw.

The Wildrose Alliance nomination contest in Varsity has drawn three candidates, Justin Anderson, Kevin Dick, and Brian Sembo.

Meanwhile, 26-year old Drew Adamick is seeking the yet to be scheduled NDP nomination in Edmonton-Centre. Mr. Adamick was the 2008 federal Liberal candidate in Cariboo-Prince George, where he placed third behind Conservative MP Dick Harris.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

tory backbenchers sat silently, then voted to gag the public accounts committee.

Don Braid has published an excellent column in today’s Calgary Herald on the decision by Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson and six other PC MLAs to vote in favor of weakening the power of the Public Accounts Committee to be a financial watchdog.

As I wrote last week, the powers of the committee were curtailed when PC MLAs voted to create a new rule forcing Committee Chairman MLA Hugh MacDonald to have all future committee correspondence approved by Deputy Chair PC MLA Dave Rodney. When the issue was raised by opposition MLAs in Question Period, Premier Ed Stelmach, Education Minister Dave Hancock, and Deputy Premier Doug Horner have scoffed at the complaints, citing how powerless they are when it comes to influencing their backbench MLAs.

As shown in Hansard transcripts of the April 14 Public Accounts Committee meeting, Only Mr. Olson and Mr. Rodney  spoke in favor of the motion. Both Liberal Harry Chase and New Democrat Brian Mason spoke and voted against the motion. Not one of the five other PC MLAs at the meeting spoke to the motion. Edmonton PC MLAs David Xiao, Tony Vandermeer, Peter Sandhu, Doug Elniski, and Red Deer MLA Cal Dallas all sat silently until it was time to vote on Mr. Olson’s motion and they all voted in favor of it.

UPDATE: After significant public pressure, it appears that Mr. Olson might introduce a new motion to withdraw his original motion at tomorrow’s meeting of the Public Accounts Committee.