Is Danielle Smith’s new cabinet a bad sign for workers?

Danielle Smith has increased the provincial cabinet by 5 ministers, but everyday working people may have lost their representation.

Earlier today, Alberta’s newest premier, Danielle Smith, announced her new cabinet.

While plenty of other media outlets have covered the changes, I wanted to highlight changes specific to labour in the province.

Before that, however, I wanted to point out that Smith has decided to create a much bigger cabinet than her predecessor, Jason Kenney, started with back in 2019.

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Kenney had appointed 19 ministers, besides himself. Smith, however, has bumped that up to 24.

Plus, Smith has appointed 11 parliamentary secretaries, compared to just the 1 that Kenney had announced. Smith didn’t announce any associate ministers; although Kenney left his position as premier with 6 in place.

Maybe that’s what the UCP meant in the 2019 election when they included the word “jobs” in their campaign slogan. I mean, they didn’t specify which types of jobs and for whom, right?

All but one of Smith’s leadership rivals received minister posts:

  • Travis Toews: finance
  • Brian Jean: jobs, economy, and northern development
  • Rebecca Schulz: municipal affairs
  • Todd Loewen: forestry, parks, and tourism
  • Rajan Sawhney: trade, immigration, and multiculturalism

Leela Aheer—who previously served as minister over culture, multiculturalism, and status of women—was the only competitor to not receive a ministry assignment.

As far as labour-related news, as I already noted, Jean is the new jobs minister, taking over from Tanya Fir, who will be the new parliamentary secretary of the status of women.

The new cabinet no longer appears to have a labour minister. That being said, the previous labour minister, Kaycee Madu, is now one of two deputy leaders, as well as the minister over skilled trades and professions. He previously also held the immigration portfolio, but that has since been transferred to Sawhney, as seen above.

I’m fine with trades and professions being specifically represented in cabinet, but now I’m wondering where the rest of the workforce goes? Where do grocery store clerks go? What about truckers? How about restaurant servers? Or burger flippers? Or janitors?

As of this writing, the Alberta government’s website has at the top of the main page for Alberta Labour and Immigration the following statement:

Delivers programs and policies to support a diverse workforce, promote safe, fair and healthy workplaces and attract skilled workers.

Now, that the labour minister seems to be the skilled trades and professions minister, does this mean the new ministry will support a less diverse workforce? Will it promote safe, fair and healthy workplaces for only. a handful of professions?

The Alberta Labour and Immigration website also has a section called “labour relations”. How will this new change affect this section? Does labour relations apply to only so-called skilled workers and professions now? Or will those workers simply get preference?

The last thing the working class needs in Alberta right now is more class division. Singling out certain workers over others is only going to undermine class solidarity.

But that may actually be the point.

Cabinet members will be sworn in on Monday, October 24.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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