Alberta Premier Danielle Smith appointed more than half her caucus to cabinet, including nearly every United Conservative MLA elected in Calgary, and chose only re-elected members of her party in her first major moves after winning a four-year mandate.
The Premier, with a caucus of 48 MLAs, announced who would sit in her 25-person cabinet during a ceremony in Edmonton. Ms. Smith’s closest advisers includes 10 of her 12 MLAs in Calgary, where the party won fewer than half the city’s 26 seats, with the remaining representatives from smaller cities and rural areas.
There is no representation in the capital city, where the UCP were shut out by the NDP. Five cabinet members are women, including Ms. Smith, and there is little racial diversity. No rookie MLAs are in the lineup.
During a news conference following the swearing-in ceremony, the Premier said she is proud to present a cabinet of “talented, diverse and experienced leaders in business, their communities and political life.”
With a slim majority of the 87 seats, and the New Democratic Party, with 38 seats, forming the largest Official Opposition in Alberta’s history, Ms. Smith’s cabinet will play an important role as the government works to represent all corners of the divided province. The UCP has maintained its rural stronghold but saw its urban presence shrink.
Members of Ms. Smith’s previous cabinet who won re-election have maintained spots in her inner circle. While some have been shuffled into new roles, others will keep hold of their previous portfolios. There are also new faces appointed to some the province’s most complex files after several high-ranking UCP members were ousted by the NDP in the provincial vote.
One of the more contentious portfolios is Health, where former education minister Adriana LaGrange takes over. Staffing issues and the persistent spectre of creeping privatization are two of the bigger challenges.
Education is now being helmed by Demetrios Nicolaides.
Another portfolio that has seen its share of turmoil is Justice, which will now be run by Mickey Amery. His appointment was hailed as historic by the Premier as the first person of Muslim faith to serve as Alberta’s Minister of Justice.
The two previous Justice ministers, Kaycee Madu, who also served as one of Ms. Smith’s deputy premiers, and Tyler Shandro, also a former health minister, lost in last week’s election.
Other important appointments include Dan Williams, former government whip, who is now the Minister of Mental Health and Addiction – a file that has been a focus of Ms. Smith’s UCP government.
The Finance Minister is Nate Horner, who must manage an economy that remains tied to the resource sector and is operating with forecasted surplus of $2.4-billion.
Mike Ellis, who retained his role as Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services, has been named Deputy Premier. Other MLAs continuing in their former positions are Rick Wilson as Minister of Indigenous Relations, Todd Loewen as Minister of Forestry and Parks and Nate Glubish as Minister of Technology and Innovation.
Taking over the always important energy file is Ms. Smith’s leadership rival Brian Jean, who was previously designated to jobs, economy and northern development. That ministry is now named the Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Trade and Matt Jones is at its helm. Ms. Smith has also brought back a ministry that will focus on women, now named the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Status of Women, which will be led by Tanya Fir.
When asked about the government’s lack of representation in Edmonton, Ms. Smith pointed to three cabinet members who represent areas close to the city – Searle Turton for Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, Dale Nally of Morinville-St. Albert and Nate Glubish who represents Strathcona-Sherwood Park.
“They’re going to be spearheading my outreach into Edmonton,” she told media. “We’re going to continue consulting with Mayor [Amarjeet] Sohi, who has written me letters, and who often makes sure that I know his priorities. In addition, we have a number of staffers who live and work in Edmonton.”
Ms. Smith said previously she wants to create a council of unelected UCP candidates who ran in Edmonton to advise her on the city’s issues, but the idea was met with fierce opposition. A final decision on the council has not been made.
NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffmam, during a news conference, said she is “deeply disappointed” with the racial and gender makeup of Ms. Smith’s cabinet and her decision not to have dedicated ministries for climate change, labour, homelessness and affordable housing. Those issues are included in the scope of other ministries, but Ms. Hoffman said it shows that the UCP priorities lie elsewhere.
“What I find particularly startling is that not a single newly elected MLA is in her cabinet,” Ms. Hoffman said. “This is a government that lost a significant number of seats in the election. They lost the popular vote in both Calgary and Edmonton and the exact same characters are continuing to call the shots.”
The full cabinet includes:
- Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs – Danielle Smith
- Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services – Mike Ellis
- President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance – Nate Horner
- Minister of Affordability and Utilities – Nathan Neudorf
- Minister of Jobs, Economy and Trade – Matt Jones
- Minister of Justice – Mickey Amery
- Minister of Health – Adriana LaGrange
- Minister of Energy and Minerals – Brian Jean
- Minister of Environment and Protected Areas – Rebecca Schulz
- Minister of Forestry and Parks – Todd Loewen
- Minister of Technology and Innovation – Nate Glubish
- Minister of Municipal Affairs – Ric McIver
- Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors – Devin Dreeshen
- Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction – Dale Nally
- Minister of Infrastructure – Pete Guthrie
- Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation – RJ Sigurdson
- Minister of Mental Health and Addictions – Dan Williams
- Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services – Jason Nixon
- Minister of Tourism and Sport – Joseph Schow
- Minister of Children and Family Services – Searle Turton
- Minister of Advanced Education – Rajan Sawhney
- Minister of Education – Demetrios Nicolaides
- Minister of Arts, Culture and Status of Women – Tanya Fir
- Minister of Indigenous Relations – Rick Wilson
- Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism – Muhammad Yaseen