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For Alberta Premier's rivals, soft landings

Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

October has been very good to Alison Redford's rivals.

In the month since Ms. Redford became Alberta Premier and Progressive Conservative Leader, her detractors have been given soft landings, as she moved fast to govern and keep one of the country's longest-running political dynasties united.

This week, Kelley Charlebois, who was a key player behind Gary Mar's unsuccessful leadership bid, will be named executive director of the PC Party, at least until a full-time successor can be found to replace the retiring Pat Godkin. While neither Mr. Charlebois nor party brass would confirm the appointment, sources said it will be formalized at a meeting on Wednesday.

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"I don't think you'd be off base," PC Party president Bill Smith said in response to queries.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mar, who was the front-runner heading into the final ballot Oct. 2 but finished second to Ms. Redford, was named Alberta's representative in Asia. Based in Hong Kong and with an annual salary of $264,576, the appointment of the province's former envoy in Washington was heavily criticized. But as Alberta increasingly focuses on the Chinese and the Asian marketplaces, the Premier shrugged it off and moved on.

Last week, Elan MacDonald, formerly deputy chief of staff to Ed Stelmach, Ms. Redford's predecessor, and the manager of the Mar campaign, was given the senior role in her office as "adviser to the premier on legislative affairs."

Ms. Redford was also quick to bestow cabinet positions to the other failed leadership contenders.

Doug Horner is now deputy premier and president of the Treasury Board. Ted Morton took charge of energy. Doug Griffiths has the municipal affairs portfolio. And Rick Orman, a former Tory cabinet minister, will soon be assisting on a "northern Alberta strategy," but the details haven't been finalized, according to the premier's office.

The plum postings come as little surprise to observers.

"It was a fairly deep pool of candidates," said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary. "As a result, you don't keep these people away."

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He said Mr. Mar in particular is a perfect fit for the province's push into Asia.

Still, he said the elevation of Mr. Charlebois, who received untendered contracts from the health department while Mr. Mar was health minister, will raise serious questions. It will be another issue for Ms. Redford to stickhandle in her rather rocky first month of flip-flops and cancelled projects.

"There was a hostile takeover of the party," Prof. Bratt said. "I don't think she was prepared to govern."

With a report from Josh Wingrove in Edmonton

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Dawn Walton

Dawn Walton has been based in Calgary for The Globe and Mail since 2000. Before leaving Toronto to head West, she won a National Newspaper Award and was twice nominated for the Michener Award for her work with the Report on Business. More

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