Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Tory Here, A Tory There.

The new Cabinet appointed today by Premier Redford is both a continuation of the status quo, but also contains a few hints about what to expect. If you view this as change, you need to get out more.

The 17 member cabinet has 7 associate ministers. Salary and size of cabinet are red herrings. The real issue is whether they can function well.  Previous cabinets were plagued by turf wars, empire building, and cross-jurisdictional disputes. I remain skeptical that the new Premier can fix those problems.

Surprisingly there are only 4 women in the cabinet, including the premier. (More conservative than progressive I guess.)  Edmonton and St. Albert have 5 and Calgary has 6 ministers.  The rest are rural members north of Red Deer.  The average age of the cabinet is about 48.  You could say it is more of an urban cabinet.

I was surprised to see Thomas Lukaszuk appointed deputy premier without portfolio.  You can probably guess by this the Premier will probably be spending most of her time on bitumen related issues.  Lukaszuk's job will be to keep the back benches busy, and to keep people with good ideas away from the Premier's office.

Everyone thought Ken Hughes would be the Health Minister.  As long time Redford loyalist  he was rewarded with the Energy portfolio, which is the most important ministry in this Government.  It is by far their highest priority. Hughes will travel around a lot, sort of a bitumen Ambassador.

The Health Ministry was left as is, under the care of Fred Horne.  I fully expect the Alberta Health Care system to continue to go sideways or backwards. It won't really be a priority.

The merger of Finance and the Treasury Board under Doug Horner is interesting.  Traditionally these two roles are separate because they look at spending from two different perspectives.  The merger of these two ministries suggests the Premier wants to start blasting out money without too much friction or dissent.

Jeff Johnson as Education Minister is an unknowable unknown.  Straightaway he will have to deal with the implementation of Bill 4, the relaunching of the failed new education act, and some public protests over prayer in public schools. And also those irritated religious mommy home school bloggers. Good luck with all that. Johnson and Hughes will likely work well together to get industry developed curriculum about the oilsands into the school system.  Or, as the Premier likes to call it, "facts and science".

Doug Griffiths in Municipal Affairs will have the primary challenge of trying to win back municipalities in southern Alberta who turned Wildrose.  What will the strategy be?  Ignore their needs?  Blast cash at them? I think we know by now that intimidation won't work.

What about Heather Klimchuk as Culture Minister you ask?  I don't really know much about her, or even what Alberta Culture does.  I did find a blog post from her that was written entirely in upper case. Something tells me Culture won't be all that important in this government.

This brings us to the new Transportation Minister Ric McIver.  When he was a Calgary City Councillor he postured as a fiscal conservative, got his boots licked repeatedly by Rick Bell, and on one occasion told Mayor Bronconnier that he should be nicer to Ed Stelmach.  Ric's biggest problem will be learning the new culture. In Calgary he was nick-named "Dr. No" for voting against almost every kind of spending.  As an Alberta Tory under Redford he'll certainly have to become known as "Dr. Yes, God Yes",  as they start blasting out money in all different directions. There is the outstanding issue of the South West Calgary Ring Road project, which will involve a new three way agreement between the City of Calgary, The Tsuu T'ina Nation, and the Provincial Government.  There is the more emotional and contentious upgrades to Highway 63.

Good luck to the Opposition Parties.  There is a lot to be skeptical about here.  Redford isn't a game changer or a reformer.  This is status quo politics with the usual emphasis on Party first.

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