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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stelmach's Cabinet Is Both Progressive and Conservative.

I am partisan and biased but all kidding side…Premier Stelmach's Cabinet is great for so many reasons. What I like mostly it that it is progressive and activist but focused. It is also conservative and prudent. The prudent, progressive and activist aspects are all wrapped into one when you look at Ron Stevens. He continues as Deputy Premier and goes to the revitalized International and Intergovernmental Relations, adding investment attraction as well. For a more detailed understanding of my reasons of how great the Stevens appointment is look at my post of Monday March 10…he fulfills every criterion.

Iris Evans in Finance with added aspects called “Enterprise” that includes economic development agencies is a focused activist appointment. Snelgrove stays in Treasury Board to ride herd on changes that are needed but he will not to sell the farm in the process. This is a conservative prudent appointment. Splitting Infrastructure and Transportation shows just how serious Stelmach is about the 20-year capital plan he highlighted just before the election too. More conservative prudence as I see it.

It is a great progressive idea for Renner to be continuing in Environment – he is very capable there and it will be a hot potato portfolio for sure. Morton staying on in Sustainable Resource Development is conservative and prudent because we need the continuity to get the Land Use Framework done - and it will be a challenge.

In no order of priority consider these other progressive moves in the new Stelmach Cabinet. New departments of Aboriginal Relations, Culture and Community Spirit as well as Tourism, Parks and Recreation means Premier Stelmach was listening to the messages from these largely ignored areas of our society. Adding a Housing and Urban Affairs department shows a new awareness of the changing nature of where Albertans live – in cities – and there is a housing crisis that needs immediate attention. Fort McMurray needs the crown lands around the city released immediately to get on with housing supply. Minister Fritz is back in this new focused and progressive portfolio and will have to deal with that challenge yet again - and hopefully get it done this time.

New faces that are exciting to me include Jack Hayden in Infrastructure where there is a need for sound management and a depth of knowledge in local government which Jack has in spades. Mary Anne Jablonski in Seniors and Community Supports is a perfect fit. This area needs someone who cares, has passion for the needs of vulnerable citizens and can help push through the big changes needed in the portfolio for theses service sectors to be sustainable. This portfolio has been very poorly served by many of the Ministers and has been in decline ever since Gene Zwozdesky was in charge. Speaking of Zwoz, Aboriginal Relations will benefit from his experience and enthusiasm. My MLA, Heather Klimchuk goes to Government Services and she knows PC politics and people. Calgary’s Alison Redford is the new Minister of Justice and is a good move for a rookie Minister too. They are new urban female appointments that show Stelmach learned some other important lessons from his last Cabinet too.

The Cabinet Policy Committees are all chaired by rookie MLA except incumbent Neil Brown and oh yes Tony Vandermeer who lost in 2004 is back again and chairing the CPC on Health. The new initiative of Parliamentary Assistant has some strong people too. The ones I know and think highly of are Doug Griffiths (Agr. and Rural Dev), Janice Sarich (Education), Diana McQueen (Environment), Raj Sherman (Health and Wellness), and Thomas Lukaszuk (Municipal Affairs). I don’t know Evan Berger (SRD) but I hear good things about him and hope he makes a difference.

So the larger Cabinet is not just bigger because size matters when it comes to a Caucus. It is bigger in ways that makes sense and with a mix of experience, continuity and new faces. The five new priorities that were announced with the Cabinet are important too. They are indications of where the Premier’s head is at and were he intends to focus his government but that is fodder for another post.

I imagine we can expect the Deputy Minister appointments tomorrow. One Cabinet Minister was dropped today. I would not be surprised to see one or more Deputies dropped tomorrow. Stay tuned.