Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party cabinet contains a guy who once went down south to campaign for Donald Trump, a woman who opposes school gay-straight alliances and wrote a university president attacking a professor’s critical commentary on Catholic education, a man who fired a single mom he employed after she complained about sexual harassment, and a fellow who says the folks in his riding came from “superior stock,” even if that “reeks of ‘Arian’ undertones.”
Other than that, though, they mostly seem OK at first glance!
I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether that’s good news or bad news.
Kenney was sworn in as premier at about 10 a.m. yesterday and his Calgary-heavy 23-member cabinet (20 if you don’t count the “associate” members) took the oath immediately afterward at Government House in Edmonton. As befitted the occasion, it was snowing outside.
Count on it, the new UCP cabinet will get down to business quickly enacting the radical ideas in Kenney’s Revenge Platform that will send a lot of Canadians and considerable numbers of Albertans into a swivet, but about which no one can deny the former Harper government cabinet minister has a powerful mandate to implement.
The UCP started by proclaiming the NDP’s unconstitutional turn-off-the-taps-to-B.C. statute into law, immediately opening the way for the government of B.C. to take it to court. So as far as the NDP goes, it seems like the UCP strategy is to keep the bad ideas and dispose of the rest.
There will likely be a rush of good-news economic announcements as the oil industry brings its capital strike to an end — although, God knows why they bothered because they got pretty well everything they wanted from the NDP as well. Regardless, this will soon run out of steam because the economic fundamentals haven’t changed very much.
In the new premier’s defence, he doesn’t really have any caucus members to pick from Edmonton and you can’t blame him for wanting to stay away from the remnants of the Wildrose Party D-team that made up his last UCP caucus in the Alberta legislature — especially the ones that supported Brian Jean for the UCP leadership.
Presumably he reckoned, in this case, better the devils you don’t know than the devils you do.
President Trump’s enthusiastic, famously MAGA-hatted campaign supporter is Devin Dreeshen, the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, who becomes minister of agriculture. Dreeshen said after his American sojourn he just went Stateside to learn about the U.S. political system. I doubt anyone believes him about that, even his father, Conservative Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen.
The appointment of Adriana LaGrange as education minister is a pretty strong indicator Kenney intends to get on with his program of gutting protections of LGBTQ young people, although of course his rhetoric will claim the opposite. LaGrange is the former president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association who wrote the University of Alberta assailing Dr. Kristopher Wells for saying Catholic schools were failing to protect their students. U of A President David Turpin told her, presumably more politely than this, to get lost.
In this regard, she seems well suited to play the role of cabinet’s Cruella de Vil.
As for Jason Nixon, who was Kenney’s House Leader in Opposition, he once criticized an NDP bill requiring employers to take measures to protect their employees by insisting they could be trusted to do the right thing. Shortly afterward, a ruling of the B.C. Human Rights Commission came to light outlining a case in which Nixon fired a female employee soon after she complained of being sexually harassed by a customer.
Nixon may have had some run-ins with a neighbour and officials, but no one can say he’s not popular with voters in his Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding, where he was elected by the largest majority in the province on April 16.
As environment minister, I imagine Nixon will prove to be a boon to the environmental movement’s fundraising efforts. I wouldn’t be surprised the emails are already flowing out. He may even be the man who Makes Environmental Charities Great Again!
Then there’s Grant Hunter, MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner in the Mormon heartland of deep-south Alberta. He’s only an “associate minister,” though, so I suppose we don’t have to worry about his “superior stock” musings as the cabinet supremo of the newly created bureaucracy devoted to eliminating red tape. You’ve got to love the concept!
Still, given this minister’s past commentary, it’s a good thing Kenney’s erstwhile homeland star candidate Caylan Ford didn’t make it into the caucus or cabinet, huh?
As for the others, mostly we’ll need to wait and see. I bet the research team at Press Progress is combing through their resumes right now!
The new premier, in addition to repeating his vow to stand up against other governments and “foreign-funded” environmental charities, praised “ordered liberty” and called for “a society that places gratitude over resentment.” Is it just me, or does this mishmash strike a faintly discordant note?
Meanwhile, Derek Fildebrandt, former rising star of the Alberta conservative movement and sometime bad boy of two conservative parties who was soundly defeated in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding on April 16 by Leela Aheer, announced yesterday he is stepping aside as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party.
The FCP, which emerged from the general election with zero seats, had been adopted by Fildebrandt after he was kicked out of the UCP by Kenney last year for a series of politically embarrassing misadventures.
Fildebrandt told me he will not be running in the federal election, as many had speculated, or any other election. “I am just done with politics,” he stated. “I don’t run for MP, MLA or dog catcher.”
So long, Derek, we’re going to miss you!
Aheer, meanwhile, was sworn in as minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women.
The Kenney cabinet on Day 1 of the Kenney government
Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Relations: Jason Kenney, Calgary-Lougheed
Minister of Finance, President of Treasury Board: Travis Toews, Grande Prairie-Wapiti
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General: Doug Schweitzer, Calgary-Elbow
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry: Devin Dreeshen, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Minister of Transportation: Ric McIver, Calgary-Hays
Minister of Health: Tyler Shandro, Calgary-Acadia
Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism: Tanya Fir, Calgary-Peigan
Minister of Education: Adriana LaGrange, Red Deer-North
Minister of Environment and Parks: Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
Minister of Energy: Sonya Savage, Calgary-North West
Minister of Community and Social Services: Rajan Sawhney, Calgary-North East
Minister of Seniors and Housing: Josephine Pon, Calgary-Beddington
Minister of Children’s Services: Rebecca Shultz, Calgary-Shaw
Minister of Indigenous Relations: Richard Wilson, Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin
Minister of Advanced Education: Demetrios Nicolaides, Calgary-Bow
Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women: Leela Aheer, Chestermere-Strathmore
Minister of Labour and Immigration: Jason Copping, Calgary-Varsity
Minister of Municipal Affairs: Kaycee Madu, Edmonton-South West
Minister of Infrastructure: Prasad Panda, Calgary-Edgemont
Minister for Service Alberta: Nate Glubish, Strathcona-Sherwood Park
Associate Minister for Red Tape Reduction: Grant Hunter, Taber-Warner
Associate Minister of Natural Gas: Dale Nally, Morinville-St. Albert
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions: Jason Luan, Calgary-Foothills
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post is also found on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta video
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