Kenney announces minor cabinet shuffle, newly renamed jobs ministry
EDMONTON -- Ministers Kaycee Madu and Doug Schweitzer, along with Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard, were given new positions and Health Minister Tyler Shandro stayed put as Premier Jason Kenney announced a minor cabinet shuffle Tuesday.
Schweitzer, the former justice minister and solicitor general, will take over the newly renamed Jobs, Economy and Innovation Ministry, replacing the role formerly occupied by Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Minister Tanya Fir.
The ministry will place a major focus on implementing Alberta's Recovery Plan and sector strategies and will be "broadened and expanded" to deal with economic fallout from the pandemic, Kenney said.
"Additional functions will be added to the ministry over the weeks and months to come and a clear mandate is being given to the minister…to work with his colleagues in implementing Alberta's Economic Recovery Plan."
Madu, the former municipal affairs minister, will take over the justice file from Schweitzer.
"He will bring tremendous expertise implementing key democratic reforms including citizen’s initiative and recall legislation, a review of Alberta’s Police Act and the execution of the fair deal panel recommendations endorsed by government," Kenney said.
Allard was given her first cabinet role as minister of municipal affairs.
Likening her to Margaret Thatcher, Kenney said Allard has been one of his "most effective MLAs."
"She has a reputation in the Grande Prairie community and in the northwest of Alberta as a real community and business leader," he said.
Fir was not given a new cabinet role.
"I want to thank Tanya for her good work. She's a very talented MLA and I appreciate her service," said Kenney, announcing his first cabinet shuffle since his 2019 election win.
Kenney stuck by his health minister, Tyler Shandro, saying he had "100 per cent" confidence in Shandro despite his fraught relationship with Alberta doctors.
"He has done, in my view, a phenomenal job under the most trying of circumstances," said Kenney. "In part, under his leadership, with advice from public health officials, Alberta over the past six months has had a lower level of infections, hospitalizations and COVID mortalities than the large Canadian provinces, than all of the U.S. states and all of the European countries, while maintaining less stringent health restrictions."
The dispute between Shandro and the Alberta Medical Association stems from Shandro throwing out a master pay agreement in February to adjust physician compensation. Both sides have been unable to come to terms on a new agreement since then, and last month, 97.8 per cent of the AMA voted no confidence in the minister.
Kenney said Shandro is doing what he has to in curbing an "out-of-control" increase in doctor pay.
"If we don't bring in reasonable control, we'll see continued increases in a province whose economy has shrunk by 20 per cent the last five years."
The premier called Tuesday's cabinet changes a "limited reset" as the province deals with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, Finance Minister Travis Toews will release his latest fiscal update, with Kenney painting a dire picture of what to expect.
"This is going to be the biggest deficit in the history of Alberta by a country mile," said Kenney. "I've said it's going to be well-north of a $20-billion, deficit in large part because of the total collapse of revenues emanating from the coronavirus recession.."
The shuffle comes the day after the federal Conservative Party voted for its new leader, former cabinet minister Erin O'Toole.
Earlier Monday, Kenney, who endorsed O'Toole, thanked him on Twitter "for raising Western alienation as a primary concern in his first conversation" with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"I have great confidence in his ability, his wisdom and his total dedication to fairness for Alberta and a strong future for our resource industries," he said during the news conference.