Monday, July 27, 2009

What Cabinet Shuffle Advice Would You Give Premier Stelmach?

Every now and then rumours appear about a Cabinet Shuffle in the Alberta government. Usually they arise when something momentous happens (booting Boutilier does not count as momentous by any objective measure). The shuffle rumours are circulating quietly, likely also around the BBQ and golf tournament circuits, this summer.

Ron Stevens' Resigns But No Shuffle
We had a potential for a "momentous" occasion that could have given rise a Cabinet shuffle. It was too soon in the mandate and the Premier did the right thing by personally assuming the roles and responsibilities of the departed Minister. The surprisingly rapid resignation of Ron Stevens was the potential momentous occasion trigger for a Cabinet shuffle. He was the Deputy Premier, Minster of International and Intergovernmental Relations and perhaps most important of all, Ron was the political lead in Calgary. He was respected and a buffer for the Stelmach government in Calgary. Out of the blue he resigns and the next week shows up with an appointment the Court of Queen's Bench. Net result, no shuffle and nothing really changed.

Shuffles also occur when there is a perception that the Premier's "political team" needs a shake up. A recent Deputy Minister mini shuffle saw two of them switch places but that hardly constitutes a shake up. This was a very strange event and done without much explanation. Is is still leaving speculation about what exactly was the driving force behind that decision and who made it. These kind of strange anomalous happenings add to the perception that the government is drifting and one of the best solutions would be for a front bench shake up.

A New Tough Budget Cycle Could Use Some Fresh Horses
It would be a good move to start the new budget and policy process with a fresh set of horse all pulling the same policy wagon and in the same clear direction. In September it will be 18 months since the last Alberta election. That may be a bit soon for a shuffle in normal circumstances. But these are not normal times. There is a growing sense of restlessness throughout the province about the economy, the environment, the quality of life in Alberta and the future direction of the province generally. That angst could be largely addressed by a Cabinet shake up and a new policy agenda clearly and forcefully articulated by the Premier.

There is a need to revise the thinking and governing philosophy from record surpluses to record deficits. We need deal with the recession and what we are going to do about it. We also need reposition the provincial government's mindset about how to deal with the environment. There is a nagging feeling that the front bench could use some serious focusing and take a much more strategic and coherent approach as they go forward into the next budget cycle. After all the writing is on the wall that at least $2B of budget cuts are coming next year.

The Premier is on record saying taxes are not going up. Our resource revenues, natural gas especially, are in the tank and likely to be there for a while longer. Some serious planning, cutting and communication work needs to be done. Re-branding the province with slogans, logos and paid advertising is not going to reassure Albertans that their government "gets it" and is capable of dealing with the challenges ahead.

Facing the PC Party Confidence Vote
The Premier also has to face the PC Party in a confidence vote in early November. He will need all the power his office can bring to bear on ensuring a big turnout and a strong endorsement. Culling his Cabinet herd early this fall may help reassure PC partisans he is reaffirming his leadership of the party and of the government and is taking control of the agenda.

If there ever was a time for Premier Stelmach to rethink and re-imaging how and where he wants to lead the province the time is now. Albertans are ripe for some changes but they want to see a plan that they can have confidence in. Given all of this political noise and churn, could a Cabinet Shuffle be in the offing this fall? I would not be surprised - either way.

What Cabinet Changes Would You Make If You Were in Charge?
So lets presume some Cabinet changes are going to happen. What advice would you give Premier Stelmach for a Cabinet shuffle? No cheap shots or character assassinations please. Give us your picks and pans and give us your reasons too. And please go beyond the personalities. Shift happens. Give us your Cabinet shuffle thoughts and recommendations. Tell us why you think your recommendations would be better to help ensure the prosperity and progress of the province.

I know the Premier's office reads this blog from time to time so your recommendations just might have some real influence. Who knows. Looking forward to your Cabinet shuffle thoughts, comments and recommendations.


  1. There's nothing Stelmach could do that would be of interest to me. I want a change of government and some basic democratic reforms. Whatever Stelmach does do will be 100% in the interests of himself and the party, not the people.

  2. Naheed2:38 pm

    No question Tarchuk has to go. But it would be much more effective if seen as a firing (even a late-afternoon-before-the-August-long-weekend firing. You listening, Ed?). She's mismanaged that portfolio for so very long.

  3. Anonymous2:51 pm

    Rumours abound; Ted Morton as Advanced Education = Worst....Idea....Ever...

  4. Liepert should go to a post where his abrasive personality and lack of respect for democratic dissent would be less of an issue (PLEASE don't let it be Municipal Affairs...).

    Morton doing a good job in a portfolio in which he has his heart. Blackett generally doing a good job as well, although Bill 44 will forever tarnish his name.

    Dave Hancock would make a good finance minister, I think.

    Mel Knight needs out of Energy. Still makes sense to have a senior Calgary MLA in that post. Mel's been lacklustre at best.

    Would like to see our MLA, Doug Griffiths, given a post (question then becomes whom to drop) such as Environment.

  5. Anonymous5:56 pm

    Easily could imagine Tarchuk demoted, along with one of Groeneveld, Goudreau or Ouellette. Not that the last three are particularly bad, just that they have been unremarkable, and there is limited political value in plugging up three cabinet spots with unremarkable rural MLAs when rural Alberta is often said to be over-represented.

    So that leaves two back-bench promotions.

    If we're going with one from each big city, maybe one of Fred Horne or Thomas Lukaszuk from Edmonton, and Dave Rodney, Len Webber or Teresa Woo-Paw from Calgary.

    I'm a non-insider (and non-Tory), so these are just guesses based on my perceptions from outside the decision-making sphere.

  6. Ken,
    I would like to think I am pretty up to date on Alberta Politics. I have racked my brain for shuffling but everything I come up with just gets trumped by Stelmach. We all know that he is the only voice right allowed to speak, no matter who has what post. The iron fist ruling has us to the point the only shuffle we need is him. Sorry for not having more helpful input.

  7. From my own expewrience way to much importance is placed on the Cabinet Minister. It is the immediate bureaucrats that will make or break them. The political machine is just a slow process period. What they do need is some one who is a good public mouthpiece. Many have been critical of this government and that is their right. I have a belief that things are going to start jelling in a positive manner.

  8. Get Liepert out of Health. He boasts that he has balls of steel, but he will not win out over those (like me) that have hips of titanium.

  9. Anonymous8:44 pm

    For Starters...

    Iris Evans to IIR
    Doug Horner to Finance
    Len Webber to Advanced Ed and Tech
    Diana McQueen to Childrens
    Heather Klimchuk to Culture
    Lindsay Blackett to Service

  10. Anonymous9:06 pm

    Okay. First things first. Teresa Woo-Paw is going nowhere. Thomas Lukazuk, ditto.

    I definitely see Ted Morton going to Advanced Education, then Doug Horner to Finance, Iris Evans to IIR.

    Mel Knight will be dropped entirely and Len Webber will replace him. Don't be surprised if you see Heather Klimchuk dropped too.

    Parliamentary Assistants - Jonathan Denis to Solgen and Kyle Fawcett to Justice, dropping Janis Sarich. Rob Anderson will be dropped over his promotion of Bill 44. David Xiao will also be dropped.

  11. Anonymous9:06 pm

    Oh there's also that open Treasury Board position. Thoughts on that?

  12. Dan Pagan9:49 pm

    Okay, simply both Tarchuk and Liepert has to go. I don't think we'll see the end of Ron, though since he and Stelmach agree on the health care system and I'm sure Stelmach need a "fall guy" in case something goes wrong with the reforms. So we'll still have Ron.

    It is easy to "demote" Tarchuk to a lower position than admitting the government made an error by putting her in the first place.

    I'm afraid Ted Morton will be appointed to Advanced Education. Dave H has been doing a decent job, despite the workload. Ted is going to be a big disaster for Advanced Education. What reasons would he be "good" for Advanced Education? Why would they want to appoint him to the position?

  13. The shuffle will come after the by-election.

    Should Diane win she'll get a post, probably Municipal Affairs. Being a woman and from Calgary, it will help Eddie balance things out.

    I agree to other comments....Knight HAS to GO!!!!

  14. Daniel Pagan9:58 pm

    Another thought to share: Ted Morton used to be in the "Calgary School" (of politics studies and economics) at the University of Calgary. It's a group of right-wing academic and economic theorists. Tom Flagnan and Barry Cooper, the guy who broke several Elections Canada's laws on election funding and university bylaws by founding the Friends of Science group, an anti-global warming group.


    If he get appointed to the what's going to change for his old school, the University of Calgary?

  15. You never know Jane, Diane could get Transportation and then she would be in charge of the southwest Calgary ring road connector, a high-profile project in Calgary and her ridng in particular.

    Knight, Evans, Liepert, and Snelgrove should go, but at most Stelmach could only move one. Probably Knight, but possibly Evans.

    I'm not sure Morton will move, mostly because I think Ed likes him tucked away where the only excuse he has to go on TV is to talk about pine beetles.

  16. Anonymous4:34 am

    Ron Stevens resigning in May was not sudden at all - everyone had known about the impending move since the end of February!!!!

    I agree with Jane - the cabinet shuffle won't happen until after the by-election...which is rumoured to be set for September 14th.

  17. Anonymous4:39 am

    Jane M:

    Good to see you back out posting on the blogs again - you must be feeling much better! Glad you had a speedy recovery.

  18. Anonymous8:10 am

    Ady to Advanced Education and Technology
    Morton to Energy
    Horner to International and Intergovernmental Relations
    McQueen to Environment
    Colley-Urquhart to Transportation
    Renner to Aboriginal Relations
    Griffiths to Agriculture and Rural Development
    Fritz to Children and Youth Services
    Sherman to Seniors and Community Supports
    Weadick to Employment and Immigration
    Brown to Sustainable Resource Development
    Johnston to Solicitor General and Public Security
    Blackett to Housing and Urban Affairs
    Zwozdesky to Culture and Community Spirit
    Tarchuk to Tourism, Parks and Recreation
    Jablonski to Service Alberta

    Knight, Ouellette, Groeneveld, Goudreau, Lindsay and Klimchuk dropped from cabinet to make way for the backbenchers.

  19. Anon @ 4:34 AM - you are right about the rumours of Ron Stevens desire to depart earlier in the yeas. And if they were as far back as Feb this year, less than a year sincer the election, why did he run in the last election in the first place? Why the change of heart about staying in politics so early in the mandate? Why such a quick turnaround from political resignation to the Bench appointment?

    The QB vetting process takes some time. tht tells me Ron was on his way out long before Feb or was the usual vetting process not followed in his case? I hope not.

    That said a Feb to May timeframe to leave Cabinet is still pretty quick for someone to actually take off - especially for a Deputy Premier. Still no one is asking why. Strange to me...but it could just be me.

  20. Anonymous9:03 am

    Ron Leipert to the backbenches. The man is a jerk, plain and simple.

  21. Hey Anon @ 9:03 So much for my request that people not make such silly personal comments about Cabinet Ministers.

    Are you telling us the sole political/governance solution is for Stelmach to move Liepert to the backbenches?
    Please tell us you have something more informed to add to the conversation.

  22. Anonymous2:50 am

    Let's face it...cabinet is filled with weak people and they are lead by a weak leader. Tinkering with appointments won't help. Rob Renner might be a well respected florist but completely lacks the skills necessary for any of the portfolios he has held. Liepert is a joke. The Columbia school of broadcasting is not much to brag about. I could go on about this lame bunch. I can see why Stelmach appoints a blue ribbon panel to deal with the economy. The dim bulbs in cabinet cannot handle it. (unfortunately Stelmach has neutered the panel with his recent comments about what His government will never do ie raise taxes... he would prefer our children will pay).


  23. Anonymous8:06 am

    Redford to Energy. Denis or Anderson to justice.

  24. Hold on Anon @ 2:50 AM - bottom line WE elect our politicians and then give them our consent to govern us. It is hardly their fault they have power.

    As Pogo famously said: "I have met the enemy and it is us."

    Passive aggresive cynicism by citizens who disengage from their political and cival society responsibilities just leave the "game" of governing and exercising political power to fewer and less capable people. Many of those people are not even elected but lurk in the backrooms and work behind closed doors of pork, patronage and partisan influence.

  25. Anonymous9:41 am

    They should look to recruit some of the talented federal folks who are being under-utilized in their current roles. Rajotte, Ablonczy and Hawn come immediately to mind.

  26. Anon at 9:41 Do you think Rajotte, Ablonczy and Hawn might lose thier seats in the pforthciming federal election? I can see Rajotte quitting federal politics because he has been overlooked and that is not going to change with Harper in charge. James needs to get on with his life. Provincial politics would make great sense for him.

    Not sure Ablonczy and Hawn are in the same boat. They have been given significant responsibilities in the Harper gov't haven't they?

  27. Anonymous9:52 am

    Rajotte is a true conservative too. We need more of those in provincial politics.

  28. Anonymous5:36 pm

    Here's my new Cabinet:
    Snelgrove - Energy
    Horner - Health (Horner's one of the brighter lights, makes few errors)
    Hancock - Education (He likes it, and he's doing a good job)
    Knight - Municipal Affairs/Aboriginal Affairs/Housing and Urban Affairs (Combine these depts)
    Evans - Treasury Board (maybe she already knows how NOT to spend!)
    Liepert - Justice ('nuff said)
    Renner - Family/Children/Senior's Services (Combine these depts - Renner is a hard working, sincere guy)
    Zwozdesky - Intergovernmental Relations (He got aboriginals talking)
    Redford - Finance (bright lady, can handle this)
    Lindsay - Agriculture
    Jablonski - Solicitor General
    Goudreau - Sustainable Resource Development
    Morton - Transportation (keep your enemies close, but not where they can do any real damage)
    Hayden - Environment
    Fritz - Tourism/Parks/Recreation/Culture (Combine these depts)
    Ady - Advanced Education
    Sherman - Employment & Immigration (another bright guy who needs to be in Cabinet; needs seasoning before he gets Health portfolio)
    Berger - Infrastructure/Service Alberta (Combine these depts)

    Dropped from Cabinet:
    Ouellette, Tarchuk, Groeneveld, Danyluk, Blackett, Klimchuk

    Cabinet reduced by four portfolios, in this time of restraint. Balance of gender, urban/rural, Edmonton/Calgary, north/central/south

  29. Anonymous9:55 pm

    Anonymous said...... Snelgrove needs to go and take Leipert and Knight with him, Stelmach needs to move up some backbenchers, Parlimentary assist Griffiths to Agriculture and Rural Development or Advanced Education , he has a passion, integrity, and intelligence to solve our problems and drive and diplomacy to get the most out of people. Until Stelmach starts recognizing the talent he has but refuses to use, Alberta is going nowwhere fast.

  30. Anonymous11:09 pm

    Appoint all 11 opposition members into cabinet, the Liberals and NDP are more fiscally conservative then anyone in cabinet right now.

  31. Anonymous9:31 am

    Gave it some serious thought a short while ago. See the link for details.


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