Prentice shrinks Alberta cabinet, appoints two outsiders

(Watch above: Jim Prentice is sworn in and the new cabinet revealed)

EDMONTON – Newly sworn-in Alberta Premier Jim Prentice has appointed a new but smaller cabinet, including two people who aren’t members of the legislature.

The outsiders include former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel and Gordon Dirks, a former member of the Calgary Board of Education.

Mandel will serve as health minister and Dirks has been appointed education minister.

Only a few members of the previous cabinet remain in the inner circle, including Ric McIver, who ran against Prentice for the Progressive Conservative leadership.

Robin Campbell has been promoted to finance minister from environment and sustainable resource development.

Diana McQueen moves from energy to municipal affairs and Frank Oberle takes over energy.

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(With files from The Canadian Press)


On Monday afternoon, Jim Prentice will be sworn in as Alberta’s 16th premier. He will also unveil his new – and smaller – cabinet.

Mount Royal political scientist Duane Bratt says the cabinet announcement will signal the first page turn for the new government post-Alison Redford.

“You only get one chance at making a first impression,” he said.

“So, if you want to demonstrate change, this is your opportunity to do that. If he bungles this, it’s going to be tough to recover.”

READ MORE: Jim Prentice to be sworn in as Alberta’s premier Monday 

Unelected cabinet members

Bratt said observers expect former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel to be in Prentice’s cabinet.

“It would be the first time since the 1930s that an unelected cabinet minister was appointed. He would have to go into a by-election, but that – I think – would be a shocker.”

READ MORE: Former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel appointed to Jim Prentice’s transition team 

Big changes

It would send a strong message if high-profile cabinet ministers are removed from their positions, he said.

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“If a man like Doug Horner is not in cabinet… He was Redford’s finance minister, very close to the Redford government. If he remains in cabinet, it’s tough to make that case that it’s a break from the Redford government. If he’s completely out of cabinet – that sends a signal as well.”

Smaller cabinet

Prentice has said that he wants to reduce the number of cabinet positions to 20 from 30.

“You can’t have a complete turnover, but when you’ve shrunk from 30 to 20, a lot of people will be removed,” said Bratt.

Fellow leadership candidates

Prentice’s challengers for the PC party leadership were two former cabinet ministers: Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk.  Will either of them get cabinet portfolios?

“McIver was one of the better cabinet ministers in the Redford government, and we’ll have to see what Prentice does with him. Thomas Lukaszuk was not a good minister but ran a very effective campaign.”

(Watch above: Duane Bratt gives his thoughts on Monday’s swearing in and new cabinet announcement)

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The balancing act

Still, Bratt said making a significant shift in cabinet while still appeasing all the invested parties will be tough for Prentice.

“Around the Calgary Edmonton rivalry, around urban rural, around gender, around competency, a mix of old faces and new faces – these are all the traditional challenges of a premier in assembling a cabinet. You take those and you add a couple of elements. One is he has to make a clear break from the Redford government, but he is constrained by how many people he has in caucus. So yes, bringing in one or two unelected cabinet ministers helps to solve that, but you can’t bring in 20.”

What’s next?

“This is just another step in the process,” explains Bratt. “The next step will be announcing if he’s going to prorogue the legislature and bring in a new throne speech, I think that is likely,” Bratt added. “When will the legislature open? It was originally scheduled for the 27th of October, but if you prorogue, that delays things… which gives him time for the by-elections.”

“It’ll be a very busy week.”

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