Jim Prentice was sworn in as the 16th premier of Alberta Monday afternoon, alongside a new and downsized cabinet that features two unelected ministers.
The 20-member cabinet — 10 fewer than former premier Alison Redford — includes former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel as health minister, and former Saskatchewan cabinet member Gordon Dirks as education minister.
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The new premier himself will serve as minister of aboriginal affairs and international and intergovernmental relations.
“As of this moment, Alberta is under new management,” Prentice told party members and reporters who gathered at Government House for the ceremony.
“This is a new Progressive Conservative government with new leadership, new voices and with a new way of doing things.”
Unelected ministers Mandel and Dirks — as well as the premier — will have to run in byelections which Prentice said will be held before the legislature returns in the fall.
“Building a new government means bringing in new blood,” Prentice said. “Both are strong and experienced leaders with a record of accomplishment. Across our province, they are both held in high regard. They will begin work immediately in their new portfolios.”
Prentice said Mandel has a strong record of public service as the former mayor of Edmonton and is ready to tackle the issues facing Alberta’s health-care system.
Mandel worked with the premier while he was Edmonton’s mayor and Prentice was a federal minister. After a year away from public service, Mandel said he was convinced by Prentice’s leadership to return to politics.
After a meeting with Prentice, Mandel spoke about decentralizing Alberta’s healthcare system.
“We need to move the decision-making back down to the people who need to make those decisions, so they don’t have to constantly go up another level,” Mandel said. “We could be more efficient, more effective.”
Dirks is a former school board trustee and has served as chair of the troubled Calgary Board of Education. He said he has the experience and passion to handle the role, often one of the most controversial portfolios.
“I feel very strongly that every child needs the opportunity to be successful in school, in life, and develop the knowledge, the skills and attitudes that are required to be a successful citizen and to realize their full potential,” Dirks said.
Prentice said he will prorogue the legislature ahead of the byelections, but insists it will be brought back in time to preserve the same number of sitting days as originally planned.
Who’s in and who’s out
Prentice’s cabinet features several new faces — and is notably missing some stalwarts associated with the previous Redford era.
Prentice dropped many high-profile members, including former finance minister Doug Horner, former health minister Fred Horne and former municipal affairs minister Doug Griffiths. Horner — whose former ministry was responsible for the use of government aircraft — will remain a special adviser to the premier on internal trade and federal provincial relations.
Former government whip and cabinet minister Robin Campbell was given the finance portfolio but would not reveal his stance on government aircraft, telling reporters to “stay tuned.”
Only five cabinet positions remained unchanged, including Jonathan Denis, who will continue as Alberta’s justice minister, and Wayne Drysdale in transportation.
Many other ministers were shifted into new portfolios. Former education minister Jeff Johnson took what most would consider a demotion and is now minister of seniors. Second-place leadership candidate Ric McIver remains in cabinet, but is now in charge of job skills, labour and training — a position previously held by rival candidate Thomas Lukaszuk.
McIver said both he and Prentice have moved on from the leadership contest, which became heated in its final weeks.
“It’s a little like a hockey game,” McIver said. “Sometimes you get your elbows up, but when it’s over, it’s over. You have a beer and get on with it.”
The full cabinet
- Jim Prentice: premier, International and Intergovernmental Relations, Aboriginal Relations, no seat.
- Robin Campbell: Finance, West Yellowhead.
- Stephen Mandel: Health, unelected.
- Gordon Dirks: Education, unelected.
- Frank Oberle: Energy, Peace River.
- Jonathan Denis: Justice and Solicitor General, Calgary-Acadia.
- Don Scott: Innovation and Advanced Education, Fort McMurray-Conklin.
- Kyle Fawcett: Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Calgary-Klein.
- Wayne Drysdale: Transportation, Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
- Manmeet Bhullar: Infrastructure, Calgary-Greenway.
- Verlyn Olsen: Agriculture and Rural Development, Wetaskiwin-Camrose.
- Diana McQueen: Municipal Affairs, Drayton Valley-Devon.
- Heather Klimchuk: Human Services, Edmonton-Glenora.
- Maureen Kubinec: Culture and Tourism, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock.
- Stephen Khan: Service Alberta, St. Albert.
- Jeff Johnson: Seniors, Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater.
- Rick McIver: Job Skills, Labour and Training, Calgary-Hays.
- David Dorward: Aboriginal Relations, Edmonton-Gold Bar.
- Teresa Woo-Paw: Asia Pacific Relations, Calgary-Northern Hills.
- Naresh Bhardwaj: Services for Persons with Disabilities, Edmonton-Ellerslie.