Alberta Premier Danielle Smith names cabinet ministers

Premier Danielle Smith announced her picks for cabinet Friday, a much larger inner circle than recent governments.

By Joey Chini and Alejandro Melgar and The Canadian Press

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced her new cabinet just before noon Friday.

She’ll be flanked by two deputy premiers — Kaycee Madu who will be running a new portfolio titled Skilled Trades and Professions, and Minister of Infrastructure Nathan Neudorf.

Travis Toews, who stepped down as finance minister to run for United Conservative Party (UCP) leader, is returning to the role under Premier Smith. Toews will also become president of the treasury board.

In a somewhat surprising turn, Smith’s leadership rival and former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean takes on duties in a renamed department titled Jobs, Economy and Northern Development.

Meanwhile, Smith is parting ways with Jason Nixon — the key lieutenant to former premier Jason Kenney.

Smith didn’t answer specifically why Nixon was out, but said “there are a number of cabinet ministers who seem to really be the hand of the former premier on a lot of files that caused our party a lot of problems.”

However, she added: “If people are out, they’re not out forever.”

Among those retaining their portfolios are Tyler Shandro as justice minister, Adriana LaGrange as education minister, Rick Wilson as indigenous relations minister, Jason Copping as health minister, and Demetrios Nicolaides as advanced education minister.

Smith supporter Peter Guthrie is the new energy minister, while Todd Loewen who ran against Smith in the leadership race but often echoed her policy ideas, will head up a new department titled Forestry, Parks and Tourism.

Mike Ellis, another Smith supporter, will leave his job as associate minister of mental health and addictions to head up a new ministry titled Public Safety.

Devin Dreeshen is back in cabinet after resigning almost a year ago amid controversy over office drinking and accusations of misbehaviour. Dreeshen is the new minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors.

“I know Devin had stepped back because he was dealing with some personal issues, and we are a caucus that allows people to be able to take a little bit of a break if they need to be able to deal with some of those personal issues,” said Smith.

READ MORE: Former UCP staffer files lawsuit against premier’s office, alleges sexual harassment, heavy drinking

Lori Williams, an associate professor of political science at Mount Royal University, says the large number of secretaries and ministers will be confusing and may lessen the actions of the province.

“The number of cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries combined makes up about two-thirds of the UCP caucus. So she’s trying to dish out a lot of perks to try to show ridings that they matter,” Williams said.

“But because there are so many of them, and they may or may not be listening to the policies that are made, I’m not sure it does the job that she wants it to. It’s watered down the meaning of the cabinet, of a cabinet position.”

Smith has been polled before and after winning the UCP leadership, and Albertans see Smith as “terrible” for the province, while the most recent poll from Leger shows that very few Albertans think Smith will “bring about positive change.”

In addition to Smith’s polling numbers, Williams adds that her past comments and controversies may “haunt her.”

“She hasn’t done a very good job of dealing with those things effectively up until this point,” Williams said. “I think she’s got a real sort of deficit here that she’s got to deal with. She’s in a fairly deep hole at this point in the polls, and the depth of that hole was measured before the very controversial comments and revelations of the last week and a half. So she’s certainly got her work cut out for her.”

Williams says there is no guarantee that MLAs will continue to support Smith if she takes on policy positions that are out of step with what their constituents want.

“She’s in a good position in terms of the resources she has to work with if she does, in fact, listen to the cabinet ministers and caucus members that she’s promised to listen to, that may go some distance,” Williams said.

“But we have to remember that those caucus members and even some of those cabinet ministers sharply disagree with one another and it may be difficult if not impossible, as Jason Kenney found, to satisfy people who hold profoundly different views who are making profoundly different demands.”

Those not returning as cabinet ministers include Whitney Issik, Ron Orr, Tanya Fir, Ric McIver, Josephine Pon, and Prasad Panda.

Nate Horner, Nate Glubish, Nicholas Milliken, Jason Luan, and Matt Jones remain cabinet ministers, albeit, in charge of different portfolios.

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