Mixed reaction to cabinet shuffle


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September 18, 2014 9:35 AM

Reaction to Monday’s Alberta cabinet shuffle was mixed, with positive and negative remarks from the political landscape around the province.

It didn’t take too long for members of the Wildrose Party to announce their frustration of the most recent cabinet shuffle.

Shayne Saskiw, MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, and Wildrose critic for Justice, said that Premier Jim Prentice showed that moving forward it will be the same old PC government.

“It’s more of the same, I was surprised despite (Prentice) declaring a generational change in cabinet, it looks like its all the same players,” he said.

“More than three quarters, that’s 16 of 20 of his new cabinet are composed of Redford cabinet ministers. The only real change that we saw in Monday’s announcement, is two of the most important portfolios, Health and Education, have been given to two people who are not even elected.”

Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel has been tasked with the ministry of Health, while former Saskatchewan MLA George Dirks is leading the Ministry of Education.

“They are unelected and they are unaccountable,” Saskiw said that what Prentice is showing is more of the same government.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman agreed with Saskiw, stating in a news conference that the changes are more of a cosmetic change than anything really substantial.

“The cabinet unveiled today represents simply a cosmetic change from the disastrous tenure of Alison Redford,” he said.

“Most of the ministers announced today were also ministers under Redford. They did nothing to stop her. Despite whatever “aura of power” there may have been, these same government members had a duty to their constituents and to all Albertans, and they failed in that duty.”

Brian Mason, who will lead the Alberta NDP until the middle of October, was the most critical of the three opposition leaders, stating in a news conference that the Prentice-led cabinet is weak.

“Some more competent MLAs were passed over because of their close association with Redford,” he said. “Instead, Prentice has appointed inexperienced, weak ministers, who were just as closely tied to Redford, though not as publicly involved in PC scandals.

“Diana McQueen, a rural MLA, has been named as minister of Municipal Affairs. It’s hard to see how big city concerns will be addressed by her.

“We’re at a very sensitive time in labour relations in the province of Alberta after countless, sustained attacks on the rights of their members. It is concerning that Prentice would appoint Ric McIver to this portfolio, a man whose history suggests he does not respect the public sector and hardworking Albertans.”.

Saskiw said that Prentice sent a strong message to the people of the Lakeland region, including Lloydminster- Vermilion, when announcing he cabinet.

“The Prentice government doesn’t care about that region,” he said. “Even Jeff Johnson was demoted in the cabinet.” Johnson was Minister of Education, but now is minister of Seniors.

“We now in the north have far, far fewer cabinet minister, and the power and the main portfolios have been given to people outside the north.” Saskiw said that is despite northern Alberta being the economic driving force for the province of Alberta.

“Lloydminster is an economic driver of the province, and for Prentice to demonstrate that he doesn’t care about that region is quiet shocking,” Saskiw added.

Lloydminster Mayor Rob Saunders said that while Starke is no longer in cabinet, the city has full faith in the work that he has accomplished and the work that he will do moving forward in his new position in government.

“It’s always nice having someone in cabinet, but we are proud of his contributions to Alberta and here in Lloydminster, and have full faith in Richard that he can perform the duty that the new premier is asking of him,” he said.

Saunders said that the City of Lloydminster stands behind him in his work.

“As the mayor of the city, and on behalf of council and the community, we have the greatest faith in our MLA, and he will always do great things, and there will always be great things ahead for him in our city, or province, and our country,” he said.

“(Richard) has proven that he will always rise to the occasion.”

County of Vermilion River Reeve Daryl Watt said that he understood that the cabinet needed to be smaller, but having a local voice like Starke in cabinet was a benefit to the county and he hopes that they can still get acknowledgment like it has in the past.

“I disappointed on a certain level that (Starke) was not part of cabinet, I think that your voice is heard a little more strongly when you’re inside cabinet. He is part of Treasury Board so there is some influence there,” Watt said.

“His talents do lead to a place where he should have had a cabinet position.”

Watt said that he was impressed with the shuffle of Energy Minister Diana McQueen into Municipal Affairs.

“The county has dealt with Minister McQueen on numerous occasions, while she was minister of Environment and minister of Energy,” Watt said, adding that he hopes that the new minister will be beneficial as she has had municipal experience in the past.

Saunders agreed with Watt, stating that McQueen’s experience as mayor of Drayton Valley will be useful in her new role.

“Like Drayton Valley, Lloydminster has a booming oil industry, strong agriculture sector and growth, she will understand what effects a city like Lloydminster in her new role,” Saunders said.

Dr. Tracy Edwards, president of Lakeland College, said that the recent cabinet shuffle was a little disappointing from a local perspective.

“Richard was a good minister, it’s a great loss to the riding,” she said, adding the silver lining in the cabinet shuffle was that Starke is now on the Treasury Board. “Which is good for the riding and an excellent fit for Richard.”

Asked about the future relationship between the college and newly appointed Minister of Advanced Education Don Scott, Edwards said that while she has only met Scott a few times, she is prepared to work to get a better relationship.

“The people I’ve spoken with have said Scott is a strong representative in his riding, so I’m hoping we can work together to better advanced education in the province,” she said.

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