Rumours that the NDP government was shuffling its senior staffers appears to be true. Sources confirm that three ministerial Chiefs of Staff have been shuffled into different offices and two new Chiefs of Staff have been hired.
Chief of Staff Bill Moore-Kilgannon will move from the Office of the Minister of Health and Seniors to the Office of the Minister of Human Services, Scott Harris will move from the Office of the Minister of Agriculture to the Office of the Minister of Minister of Health and Seniors, and Tony Clark will move from the Office of Human Services to the Office of the Minister of Agriculture.
It was also noted that Andrew Tarver has been hired to succeed Jessica Bowering as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Justice and Aboriginal Relations, and Miriam Rycroft was hired to succeed Robin Steudel as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure. Ms. Rycroft previously served as a Ministerial Assistant in the same office.
It is unclear why the three senior political staffers were shuffled, though there is a chance it could simply be a human resources decision.
Tory lobby firm hires more Tories
In the world of lobbyists, the Tory-connected Canadian Strategy Group announced today that former Progressive Conservative MLA Rick Orman and former Conservative MP Brian Storseth would join its payroll. Located in Ottawa, Mr. Storseth served in the government backbenches as the MP for Westlock-St. Paul from 2006 to 2015, when he resigned and later sought the PC nomination in Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills (he was defeated in the nomination). Mr. Orman was the MLA for Calgary-Montrose from 1986 to 1993 and ran for the PC Party leadership in 2011.
“After two weeks with me as the premier, there will be no doubts in anyone’s minds that this a time of renewal and a time of change. Put your seat belts on.” – Jim Prentice speaking with Roger Kingkade and Rob Breakenridge on September 9, 2014 on News Talk 770.
Wearing your seat belt while driving in a motor vehicle is always a good idea, but in this context, it may not cure the political whiplash endured by Albertans over the past two years.
The interview was a rough start to a mixed week for Jim Prentice, who is in the midst of transitioning into the Premier’s office and is expected to be sworn-in next week. He had positive first meetings with Edmonton mayor Don Iveson and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi. And his rounds of media interviews early in the week were an introduction to many Albertans who are unfamiliar with Mr. Prentice and a departure from his predecessor, who became notorious for avoiding the legislature press gallery.
If his first week of transitioning into the Premier’s Office is going smoothly, the same might not be the case for his first week as leader of the 43-year governing Progressive Conservative Party. Mr. Prentice is already having to deal with allegations about PC MLA Sohail Quadri’s role in accessing voting PIN numbers in last week’s leadership vote.
Cabinet Shuffle next week
Much of the mainstream media coverage this week focused on speculation that Mr. Prentice could appoint individuals from outside the legislature to what is expected to be a smaller provincial cabinet.
As the rumours fly, three names have been widely speculated as prospective outside appointments – AIMco CEO Leo DeBeaver, Conservative MP James Rajotte and former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel. Mr. Mandel is currently serving on Mr. Prentice’s transition team and endorsed his candidacy in the PC leadership race earlier this summer.
It is expected that any cabinet ministers appointed from outside the Assembly would be required to run in by-elections alongside Mr. Prentice, who currently does not hold a seat in the Alberta Legislature.
As I wrote last week, appointing cabinet ministers from outside the Legislature is not entirely unheard of in Canadian politics but it does come with some risks. Take for example Quebec Premier Bernard Landry, who appointed David Levine as a junior health minister in 2002 only to see him lose a by-election shortly afterward. The defeated candidate resigned from cabinet the next day.
While he may choose to include new talent from outside the PC Caucus, Mr. Prentice will still need to choose the bulk of his cabinet ministers from inside the current PC caucus. And his picks became slimmer yesterday as former Energy minister Ken Hughes announced that he will not seek re-election as MLA for Calgary-West.
New Senior Staff
Mr. Prentice announced that former Liberal MLA Mike Percy will be his Chief of Staff and Patricia Misutkawill be his Principal Secretary. Both could bring a stronger Edmonton-perspective to Calgarian Mr. Prentice’s inner circle and appear to be competent choices for the roles.
Dr. Percy is the former Dean of Business at the University of Alberta and served as the MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud from 1993 to 1997 (defeating rookie PC candidate Dave Hancock in 1993). He served as the Official Opposition Finance Critic for much of his time in the Legislature. It is suspected that Dr. Percy would have been appointed as Finance Minister if the Liberals, led by Laurence Decore, had won the 1993 election.
Ms. Misutka is the former Chief of Staff to Mr. Mandel and was one of four co-chairs of Mr. Prentice’s leadership campaign. After Mr. Mandel’s retirement, she worked as a Senior Advisor with the Canadian Strategy Group, a government relations company run by long-time PC Party insiders Hal Danchilla and Michael Lohner.