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Premier Smith appoints new Alberta cabinet with many familiar faces in different portfolios

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith named her new cabinet Friday, about two weeks after her United Conservative Party took the majority of seats in Alberta.

"The next four years start today and I can’t wait to get back to work with each of my cabinet colleagues,” Smith said.

The UCP won in 49 ridings, down from 63 captured in the 2019 election.

The government caucus is expected to be 48, however, because one MLA has already been told she will not be allowed to sit with the party.

The Opposition NDP swept all 20 seats in Edmonton and flipped 14 seats, mostly in Calgary.

Former cabinet ministers Kaycee Madu, Tyler Shandro, Jason Copping, Jeremy Nixon, Nicholas Milliken and Jason Luan all lost their seats and ministers Travis Toews and Sonya Savage chose not to run again.

That meant new ministers had to be appointed in health, justice, finance, mental health and addiction, culture, environment, skilled trades, and social services.

Smith's new cabinet consists of 25 people, including herself as minister of intergovernmental relations. That number is down from 27 pre-election.

Most of the ministers come from rural areas and smaller cities in Alberta, where the UCP holds the majority of its seats.

  • Mike Ellis - Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services
  • Nate Horner - President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance
  • Nathan Neudorf - Minister of Affordability and Utilities
  • Ric McIver - Minister of Municipal Affairs
  • Dale Nally - Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction
  • Pete Guthrie - Minister of Infrastructure
  • Brian Jean - Minister of Energy and Minerals
  • Todd Loewen - Ministry of Forestry and Parks
  • RJ Sigurdson - Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation
  • Adriana LaGrange - Minister of Health
  • Dan Williams - Minister of Mental Health and Addiction
  • Jason Nixon - Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services
  • Rebecca Schulz - Minister of Environment and Protected Areas
  • Joseph Schow - Minister of Tourism and Sport
  • Mickey Amery - Minister of Justice
  • Matt Jones - Minister of Jobs, Economy and Trade
  • Searle Turton - Minister of Children and Family Services
  • Devin Dreeshen - Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors
  • Rajan Sawhney - Minister of Advanced Education
  • Demetrios Nicolaides - Minister of Education
  • Tanya Fir - Minister of Arts, Culture and Status of Women
  • Nate Glubish - Minister of Technology and Innovation
  • Rick Wilson - Minister of Indigenous Relations
  • Muhammad Yaseen - Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism

Fir, Yaseen, Sigurdson, Williams, Schow, Turton, and McIver were not in Smith's last cabinet, however the first three had roles as parliamentary secretaries and Schow was house leader.

Schow will keep his job as house leader and MLA Shane Getson has been appointed chief whip.

McIver has plenty of cabinet experience, having served as minister of municipal affairs, transportation, and infrastructure dating back to his time as a PC MLA.

Jean, Loewen, Schulz and Sawhney all ran against Smith for the UCP leadership last year. All were reappointed to cabinet Friday.

Smith also backed away from a recent pledge to form a "council" of defeated UCP candidates to help represent Edmonton, which has zero UCP MLAs and therefore no ministers.

The premier pointed out Turton, Nally and Glubish are all from the capital region and will sit in cabinet.

"We also have great relationships with [city councillors] Tim Cartmell and Sarah Hamilton who are on our task force," Smith said.

"And we're going to continue consulting with Mayor [Amarjeet] Sohi, who has written me letters and who often makes sure I know his priorities."

Smith was also asked how the appointment of LaGrange to the health portfolio relates to the minister's involvement in pro-life groups.

"We will not be changing any laws regarding a woman's right to choose," Smith promised.

Smith said she will be appointing parliamentary secretaries after consulting with her ministers on their needs.

The premier did not allow her new cabinet ministers to take questions, even though they surrounded her at the media conference after the swearing in.

The ceremony, held at Government House in central Edmonton, began with the singing of O Canada, followed by prayer from a Cree Ceremonial Chief, an Imam and an Anglican Minister. 

NDP SHADOW CABINET COMING NEXT WEEK

Smith was immediately criticized by the NDP for a lack of diversity in her cabinet and for returning so many of the same members.

"Her 25-member cabinet includes just five women and just three racialized Albertans," Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman told reporters.

"And what I find particularly startling is that not a single newly-elected MLA is in her cabinet. 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."

Hoffman also singled out LaGrange saying she "completely neglected" schools and oversaw a "horrific" new curriculum. She said Albertans should be concerned that LaGrange is health minister and still working with pro-life groups.

The NDP deputy leader also criticized the appointments of Nicolaides, Nixon and Wilson, saying all three have done a poor job as ministers in the past.

Hoffman promised the 38-member Opposition, the largest Alberta has ever had, will fight for affordability measures, health-care improvements, the hiring of more teachers and progress on projects like a new hospital in south Edmonton and a hospital expansion in Red Deer.

Hoffman gave the NDP reaction because she said leader Rachel Notley was spending time with her kids and spouse.

Notley has not taken questions from the media since the election, but Hoffman said that will happen next week in Calgary.

"It's important that she gets to spend a little bit of time with her family. This has been a very focused campaign and we're so grateful for all the sacrifices with her time," Hoffman said.

Notley will also face a leadership review, something the party mandates following an election loss.

The NDP learned in the election that the party needs to do a better job reaching out to rural Albertans, having lost almost all of those seats, Hoffman said. 

REACTION ROLLS IN

The Alberta Teachers Association congratulated Nicolaides on his new appointment in education and called the change a "renewed opportunity" for a "better relationship."

In May 2021, the ATA passed a motion of non-confidence in then-minister LaGrange, reporting 99 per cent of members voted in favour of it.

“There are critical issues facing public education that require our immediate attention: outstanding concerns about curriculum, class size and complexity, teacher recruitment and retention, and our bottom-of-the-nation funding levels," president Jason Schilling wrote on Friday.

"The ATA is committed to working with the minister to address these concerns and develop sustainable solutions for the entire education community.”

Friends of Medicare, meanwhile, welcomed LaGrange to the health ministry by urging her to reverse course on privatized food, lab and surgery services.

“Their privatization schemes are only worsening Alberta’s urgent health care short staffing situation,” executive director Chris Gallaway said.

“And with so many health care workers openly contemplating leaving the province, our new Minister of Health must move quickly to show that this government has any respect for our health care workers, and to prioritize a plan to retain those already working so hard to keep Alberta’s health care system afloat.”

The Alberta Federation of Labour criticized Smith for not appointing a minister of labour, but rather a minister of jobs.

“It’s profoundly disappointing to see the Premier deliberately repeat this snub to Alberta workers by not appointing one today,” president Gil McGowan stated.

“Smith’s term is already off to a terrible start if she’s not going to have a dedicated Minister to fix the numerous problems currently in labour: wage growth in both the public and private sector is lagging behind most of the rest of Canada."

He also raised concerns about health and safety standards and staffing shortages in the public sector.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation criticized the premier for having one of the largest cabinets in Alberta history, pointing out each minister makes more than $181,000 a year.

“Albertans don’t need a big cabinet to run things out of Edmonton,” said Kris Sims, Alberta Director.

“Smith should have followed in the footsteps of former premier Ralph Klein and cut the size of cabinet when first elected as premier.”

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