Adriana LaGrange moving to health from education was among the notable highlights Friday morning as Albertans found out who will serve in Premier Danielle Smith‘s new cabinet after her United Conservative Party won last month’s provincial election.
Having previously served as minister of advanced education, Demetrios Nicolaides takes over LaGrange’s former education portfolio.
Before being elected to the legislature, LaGrange had spent time serving as the president of Red Deer Pro-Life. Her history prompted a reporter to ask Smith about whether people should wonder how LaGrange may approach women’s health issues.
“We will not be changing any laws regarding a woman’s right to choose,” Smith told reporters, adding that LaGrange’s priorities will be to improve Albertans’ access to doctors and other health professionals, reducing wait times and working with people in the medical sector to find innovative ways to improve the health-care system.
Friends of Medicare, a non-profit that advocates on protecting the health-care system, issued a news release Friday congratulating LaGrange, as well as new Mental Health and Addiction Minister Dan Williams and new Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon, on their new roles.
“We hope that the new ministers will bring fresh eyes and perspectives to the issues that we face in health care, and that they will be more willing to meet with, and listen to, health-care stakeholders when making decisions going forward,” said Chris Gallaway, the group’s executive director.
He called for the UCP government to ensure health professionals in the province are supported so that they stay in Alberta, and to not implement policies that would privatize the system.
“Friends of Medicare will be watching closely to ensure that Premier Smith is true to her promise that no Albertans will have to pay for health care, and we will continue to fight to strengthen and protect universal publicly-funded, publicly-delivered health care for all,” Gallaway said, adding his group will keep a close eye on what guidance is provided to cabinet ministers in the days ahead.
Smith began revealing who members of her new cabinet are via social media shortly after 11 a.m., just as a cabinet swearing-in ceremony at Government House in Edmonton had gotten underway.
Friday’s announcement sees Smith shrink her cabinet from 27 members to 25.
The cabinet changes will see Nate Horner move to finance from agriculture and irrigation and Mickey Amery move to justice from children’s services.
Brian Jean is now the province’s energy minister, Rajan Sawhney takes over the advanced education portfolio, Rebecca Schulz becomes minister for environment and protected areas while Todd Loewen returns to forestry.
Jason Nixon and Ric McIver had been dropped from cabinet by Smith last fall but will now return to the table. Nixon takes on community services while McIver takes on the municipal affairs portfolio, a duty he has taken on before.
“I am so pleased to have this team working with me to deliver on the promises we made to Albertans during the election,” Smith said in a news release. “These are not just our government’s priorities, they are Albertans’ priorities.
“The next four years start today and I can’t wait to get back to work with each of my cabinet colleagues.”
In response to the cabinet announcements, NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman said she was “deeply disappointed in many of the decisions announced today by Danielle Smith.”
She noted that the UCP lost seats in the election but seems to be relying on mostly the same lawmakers to lead government.
Hoffman also indicated she has questions about the cabinet’s priorities and responsibilities.
“There’s no labour minister. No housing minister. No minister with a clear responsibility for fighting climate change — and I could go on and on,” she said.
For a full list of who is now in Smith’s cabinet, please scroll to the bottom of this article.
Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson will serve as chief whip while Cardston-Siksika MLA Joseph Schow will serve as House leader.
While Albertans already knew the UCP would form the provincial government following last month’s election, they did not know which lawmakers would be appointed to key cabinet posts.
Smith’s new inner circle had been expected to see many new faces.
Some cabinet ministers like Travis Toews and Sonya Savage, who previously served under Smith, opted not to run in the May 29 election.
It is not clear yet how or if Edmonton will be represented in Smith’s cabinet as the UCP was unable to win a seat in Alberta’s capital on election night.
Smith had previously floated the idea of having defeated UCP candidates in Edmonton form a council to advise her government on concerns and priorities in Alberta’s second-largest city.
However, on Thursday, Smith told Ryan Jesperson, an Alberta podcast host, that she has the option of reaching out to members of Edmonton city council for advice as well as to UCP candidates from areas close to Edmonton who emerged victorious in the election.
Full list of cabinet members:
· Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Relations – Danielle Smith
· Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services – Mike Ellis
· Minister of Advanced Education – Rajan Sawhney
· Minister of Affordability and Utilities and Vice-chair of Treasury Board – Nathan Neudorf
· Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation – RJ Sigurdson
· Minister of Arts, Culture and Status of Women – Tanya Fir
· Minister of Children and Family Services – Searle Turton
· Minister of Education – Demetrios Nicolaides
· Minister of Energy and Minerals – Brian Jean
· Minister of Environment and Protected Areas – Rebecca Schulz
· Ministry of Forestry and Parks – Todd Loewen
· Minister of Health – Adriana LaGrange
· Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism – Muhammad Yaseen
· Minister of Indigenous Relations – Rick Wilson
· Minister of Infrastructure – Pete Guthrie
· Minister of Jobs, Economy and Trade – Matt Jones
· Minister of Justice – Mickey Amery
· Minister of Mental Health and Addiction – Dan Williams
· Minister of Municipal Affairs – Ric McIver
· Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services – Jason Nixon
· Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction – Dale Nally
· Minister of Technology and Innovation – Nate Glubish
· Minister of Tourism and Sport – Joseph Schow
· Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors – Devin Dreeshen
· President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance – Nate Horner
— with files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press