Expert predicts Alberta cabinet shuffle will benefit floor-crossers

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice is likely to appoint a handful of Wildrose floor-crossers to cabinet posts this spring, ruffling the feathers of the PC party’s progressive wing, predicts one Edmonton political scientist.

After Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith and eight other opposition MLAs abandoned their party and walked straight into the PC fold at the end of December, Prentice told the Sun he would spend his holidays reflecting on his cabinet and that “clearly a cabinet has to represent the composition of the caucus and there’s some new faces that have joined us.”

Robert Murray, vice-president of research at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, said that while Smith and former house leader Rob Anderson have said they weren’t promised anything, there were likely some backroom agreements.

“I really don’t think the allure of the backbench was something that would get them to cross the floor and sacrifice their political stability and their seats in the legislature so I think you are going to see at least one or two of those Wildrosers come into cabinet,” said Murray on Friday.

More than the nine floor-crossers, Murray said Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle and Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan would also be prime contenders for a cabinet post. The pair of former Wildrose MLAs crossed the floor weeks before their colleagues.

Prentice could easily make room within cabinet by giving up one of his own posts, either Aboriginal Affairs or International and Intergovernmental Relations, said Murray, or by shuffling out some current ministers such as Finance Minister Robin Campbell or Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Kyle Fawcett.

“There are at least three or four cabinet positions that could be reshuffled to appease those members who crossed.”

Murray predicts that 2015 will see big movement when it comes to progressive values as there’s “lots of questions” about how the progressive wing of PC party is handling Prentice’s decision to accept the Wildrosers. More progressive PC MLAs such as Edmonton-Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk, who was away during the crossing, will likely have some questions going forward, he said.

While the Wildrose will have to work hard to find and nominate candidates that can challenge the PCs in the next election, Murray said progressive parties like the Alberta Liberals and Alberta NDP will be more visible as opposition in 2015.

matthew.dykstra@sunmedia.ca

@SunMattDykstra

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