Alberta Politics

A Christmas cabinet shuffle in Alberta?

Alberta Redford Cabinet Shuffle
Premier Alison Redford and her MLA caucus.

With the Legislative Assembly’s fall sitting coming to an end, can some Progressive Conservative MLAs expect an early Christmas present from their leader, Premier Alison Redford? Nearly half-way through the PC Party’s twelfth term in office and fresh from a leadership review victory, it is expected that Ms. Redford could choose to shuffle her cabinet before Christmas. Speculation about an imminent cabinet shuffle has intensified this week.

Diana McQueen Alberta
Diana McQueen

With an increased focus on the government’s agenda to support the Keystone XL, Enbridge Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines, some political watchers have suggested that calm and confident Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen could see her prominence in cabinet rise with an appointment as Deputy Premier.

Ms. McQueen has roots in rural Alberta as an MLA and mayor, both qualities the Redford Government would like to highlight in advance of the next provincial election. Her appointment as Deputy Premier could send a signal to out-of-province skeptics that Ms. Redford takes the environmental portfolio seriously (even though that is debatable from a substance standpoint).

With the intense focus on pipelines and a desire to shift attention away from this year’s more controversial budget cuts, Ms. Redford could look to replace Finance Minister Doug Horner, a former leadership rival, with Energy Minister Ken Hughes, a close confidant.

Ken Hughes
Ken Hughes

Moving Mr. Horner to the Energy portfolio would free him from the constrains of last year’s manufactured budget woes and put him in the important position of advocating for pipeline expansion to the United States and British Columbia. In Finance, Mr. Hughes would be someone the premier could rely on to present a consistent message while managing the government’s controversial and potentially dangerous push to overhaul Alberta’s public sector pension plans before the next election.

Among the political watchers I speak with, there is no concensus where current Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk could end up in a cabinet shuffle. Some believe he could be promoted to a higher profile role like Finance and others believe he could be completely stripped of his cabinet responsibilities. His confrontational and partisan style has certainly created difficulties for Ms. Redford, but he is also one of her government’s staunchest defenders.

Mr. Lukaszuk does not shy away from engaging in heated debates in the Assembly and on social media, where it is sometime difficult to distinguish confidence from arrogance. On Twitter last week, the Deputy Premier mocked opponents of Bill 45, which could infringe on free speech rights in Alberta.

Thomas Lukaszuk
Thomas Lukaszuk

Mr. Lukaszuk replaced MLA Stephen Khan as Enterprise & Advanced Education Minister earlier this year when Ms. Redford needed a heavy-hand to impose deep budget cuts on Alberta’s colleges and universities. Not only has Mr. Lukaszuk become Ms. Redford’s lieutenant, he appears to be positioning himself as premier-in-waiting. Mr. Lukaszuk is a double-edged sword for the Premier.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths is a prime candidate to be shuffled into a different cabinet position or even to the backbenches after his unimpressive performance in cabinet. Since he was first appointed to cabinet in 2011, Mr. Griffiths has stumbled through the high profile items in his portfolio, including managing to create unnecessary conflict with popular Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi while also alienating many rural politicians.

Mr. Griffiths caused some embarrassed for the government last month when Ms. Redford was forced to halt the passage of Bill 28 Moderinizing Regional Governance Act after rural municipal leaders protested that they had not been properly consulted before the introduction of the planning legislation. The bill has since been amended, but Mr. Griffiths remains unapologetic.

If the speculation is true, December could be a both exciting and very disappointing month for some members of Ms. Redford’s cabinet. If a cabinet shuffle is imminent, there will be PC MLAs  who return home for the Christmas break with lumps of coal and others with their arms full of holiday reading material (also known as ministerial briefing binders).

Strange claim made by PC backbencher

Filed under “strange claims made by backbenchers,” Edmonton-McClung MLA David Xiao claims on his official Progressive Conservative caucus website that he is the “first mainland Chinese candidate elected in Western democracy.” This claim should surprise some, including Mae Yih, born in Shanghai and elected to Oregon Legislature in 1977, and Richard Lee, born in Zhongshan and elected to the BC legislature in 2001.

7 replies on “A Christmas cabinet shuffle in Alberta?”

Underperformer Jeff Johnson is likely out of cabinet. Doug Horner to International relations would send a message that the international offices will be taken seriously. Jonathan Denis to finance would send a strong message of financial management.

In fairness Mae Yih very clearly doesn’t count if the definition is “mainland Chinese” since “mainland Chinese” excludes everything except the the People’s Republic (e.g. the Republic of China government in Taiwan) and further excludes Hong Kong and Macau. Mae Yih emigrated before the PRC was even founded, so it shouldn’t be said that she’s more than just ethnically Chinese.

Richard Lee was born in the PRC so his case is somewhat debatable but his family moved to Hong Kong was he was just 5. He’s accordingly about as “mainland Chinese” as U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is Canadian.

So, no, it wouldn’t surprise either Mae Yih or Richard Lee to hear David Xiao’s claim since Xiao spent almost all of his 20s in mainland China in addition to being born and raised there. The Chinese community is familiar with the particular definition of “mainland China.”

Thanks for the comment, Brian. If there is a more subtle definition of ‘mainland Chinese,’ other than the most obvious definition, then I am happy to stand corrected and offer Mr. Xiao my apologies. The statement just seemed like a very strange claim to make because, as I pointed out, he is not the first mainland Chinese born person to be elected in a Western Democracy.

Redford has enough strong females in caucus that she should definitely aim to have a gender balanced cabinet. I’m not a fan of filling quotas “just cause”, but there’s no reason for her to have the sausage fest for cabinet she does right now. Elevate some strong female members and show some of the long-past-their-prime members of cabinet the door. Dave Hancock should be put out to pasture.

Friendly tip: There’s a good chance Don Scott is moved up. I think there’s a strong chance he goes to Municipal Affairs.

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