The Alberta government announced a significant cabinet shuffle yesterday, with 3 new ministers and an expanded associate cabinet.
Rick McIver, former interim leader of the PC party and a cabinet member under 4 premiers, is out as transportation minister. He had been doing double duty over transportation and municipal affairs, and apparently will continue overseeing the latter.
Taking McIver’s place over transportation is Rajan Sawhney, who’d been serving as minister of community and social services. Her old role will now be filled by Jason Luan, who is a social worker by trade and had been serving as the associate minister of mental health and addictions. It was under his watch that several supervised consumption sites were defunded.
Leela Aheer was removed from her role as minister of culture, multiculturalism, and status of women. She had recently criticized Jason Kenney for having a dinner party with other cabinet members on the roof of the Sky Palace, as well as regarding his comments on cancel culture in connect in with Canada’s residential school system.
Taking her place—kind of—is Ron Orr, who was appointed minister of culture. Orr was the UCP culture critic during a portion of the NDP’s administration. He was also one of 18 MLAs who wrote an open letter opposing COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year. Prior to being an MLA, he was a general contractor and a Baptist pastor.
There’s no word on whether there are any new plans for Aheer.
It wasn’t just the cabinet ministers that got shuffled. Kenney moved around his associate ministers. In fact, he increased the total number of associate ministers from 3 to 5.
Mike Ellis, a former cop, fills the mental health and addictions vacancy left behind by Luan’s promotion. Ellis is also the chief government whip.
The rest of Aheer’s portfolio (remember, Orr became minister of only culture) was split into 2 associate minister roles.
First, Muhammad Yaseen is now the associate minister of immigration and multiculturalism, and his portfolio will sit under Jason Copping’s ministry of labour and immigration. Seems odd to me to move multiculturalism from culture to immigration. Not all cultures belong to immigrants (such as Indigenous people), and not all immigrants are new to Canada.
Second, Whitney Issik, becomes the associate minister of status of women, reporting to the culture minister. Issik was a regional organizer for Calgary during Kenney’s campaign to become the leader of the United Conservative Party. Prior to running for office, she ran a jewellery store in Calgary, and even played for the Calgary Rage football team. It seems kind of odd to move the status of women portfolio to an associate minister position, then have that person report to a male minister.
Another new associate minister position is that of rural economic development, which will be filled by Nate Horner, who comes from a political family. The Horners have produced one other MLA—Doug Horner, who was finance minister under Jim Prentice—as well as several MPs: Jack Horner, Hugh Horner, Albert Horner, and Norval Horner.
And the fifth associate minister will be Tanya Fir, who will serve as associate minister of red tape reduction. During the first year of the UCP administration, Fir was minister of economic development, trade, and tourism, until being booted out of cabinet last summer. She was one of several MPs who was found vacationing out of the country during the height of the second wave of the pandemic. At the time, she had her legislature committee responsibilities stripped from her.
Associate ministers receive an extra $27,216 a year, on top of their base MLA salary of $120,936. That means this cabinet shuffle, which double the number of associate minister positions, will cost the government an extra $81,659 a year.
And that’s not including any staffers these new associate ministers will need.
Finally, Joseph Schow, the MLA for Cardston–Siksika, is taking over as deputy government house leader from Sonya Savage. He had previously servess deputy government whip, but that position will now be filled by Brad Rutherford, of Leduc–Beaumont.