Alberta’s new ministers have their marching orders from Premier Jim Prentice.
The provincial government released the mandate letters given to Prentice’s new cabinet team on Wednesday, highlighting several areas of work that will be undertaken by ministers in the “new” Progressive Conservative government.
“The mandate letters I have given to my cabinet ministers make it clear that I expect action on the priorities of Albertans while demonstrating the highest standards of ethics, responsibility and accountability to each other, the public service and all Albertans,” said Prentice in a statement.
“These mandate letters will be the guiding principles upon which all Albertans will judge us going forward.”
Prentice begins each mandate letter by repeating his five campaign priorities and telling cabinet that he expects them to conduct themselves “with the highest standards of professionalism, deportment and ethical behaviour, in which Albertans can be proud.”
The letters were delivered to Prentice’s 19 cabinet ministers, four legislative secretaries and special advisor Doug Horner. Some of the highlights include:
• Finance Minister Robin Campbell has been directed to return Alberta’s budget to a “clear” format that reflects public sector accounting principles. Former finance minister Doug Horner was heavily criticized for his split three-part budget. Campbell is also tasked with making sure Alberta’s public sector pension plans are “sustainable.” Unions fought the changes proposed by Horner.
• Health Minister Stephen Mandel has been tasked with returning “outcome-based regional decision making” to Alberta Health Services. The former Edmonton mayor has also been asked to implement Alberta’s Addiction and Mental Health Strategy as well develop a plan for “broader community consultation on long-term care.”
• Municipal Affairs Minister Diana McQueen will focus on the long-delayed review of the Municipal Government Act, create a “new partnership” with big cities and implement the Focused Agenda on Public Safety and Resilient Communities.
• Energy Minister Frank Oberle has a big job. Prentice has tasked him with leading Alberta’s energy strategy, expanding access to markets, and evaluating whether major energy projects in Alberta are profitable. He has also been asked to work with industry and stakeholders to “support the production of higher value energy products from raw resources.”
• Education Minister Gordon Dirks, has been tasked with revisiting proposed curriculum changes to “ensure that the Alberta school curriculum includes coherent grading acceptable to Albertans, the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic).” He must also implement a plan for long-term, predictable funding.
• Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar has to get shovels in the ground on Alberta’s schools and start moving to open more senior’s centres as well as addressing Alberta’s roads and bridges. He also needs to establish a five-year capital plan and a semi-annual report card on infrastructure building under a 25-year capital plan.
• Justice Minister Jonathan Denis has been told to ensure appropriate funding for Legal Aid. Legal Aid Alberta has said it needs at least another $8 million in annual funding to continue helping people afford lawyers. Denis has previously blamed the federal government for not increasing it’s contribution alongside the province.
• Seniors Minister Jeff Johnson is in charge of a brand new ministry and has been tasked with visiting and consulting seniors, strengthening Alberta’s elder abuse strategy, and addressing the fire code and safety issues at existing seniors centres. Media reports have shown that as many as 455 of the province’s 657 seniors facilities are not equipped with sprinkler systems.
• Innovation and Advanced Education Minister Don Scott has been asked to align the separate Alberta Innovates corporations and review Alberta Innovates Technology Futures specifically. He’s also been asked to “assess the value” of the Alberta Social Innovation Endowment created in Budget 2014.
• Service Alberta Minister Stephen Khan is tasked with creating a plan to ensure rural Albertans have access to high-speed internet by leveraging Alberta’s investment in its SuperNet broadband network. He must also “modernize and improve” Alberta’s land titles and registry system alongside the government’s own IT systems.