Monday, December 4, 2006

Anyone got any nails? Ed's gotta build a Cabinet...

Premier-Designate Stelmach announced today that he'll take the Oath as Premier of Alberta on Dec. 15th. He'll name a Cabinet at that time, or VERY slightly before.

So, what goes into Ed's Cabinet?

Well, first of all, it has to be said that he's gotten himself quite a bit of breathing room by taking the stance that "Cabinet is too large" during the leadership election. This gives him the ability to make whole-scale change without being accused of holding his own personal Kristallnacht against those Ministers who supported Dinning. I'd be surprised if half of the cabinet, at the end of the day, wasn't made up of Dinning supporters anyhow: There are just too many MLA's who supported Dinning to ignore them ALL.

Mark Norris WILL be in Stelmach cabinet, but he's got to win re-election as an MLA first. He certainly won't be likely to do it in the by-election in Calgary Elbow, to replace their outgoing MLA. Look for Mark to play a big role in the Cabinet after the next provincial election in a couple years.

Lyle... what to do with Lyle... you can't give him Health, because you're in favour of full, public funding, and he favours privitization of some services. The opposition would eat Lyle alive in the Legislature every day over the contradiction. Can Lyle serve in a major position? Unlikely... but WILL Lyle accept a minor Cabinet portfolio? I have my doubts... this one's hard to call.
I can tell you I sure as heck don't want him as the minister for MY particular sector of the government.

The Deputy Premier almost certainly has to come from Calgary, or the Tories risk losing more than a few votes to a Liberal party eager to capitalize on an attention-starved Calgary... Possibilities include Harvey Cenaiko, Ron Stevens, and Gary Mar. If you're betting, go with Stevens.

The Cabinet, as it is, is going to be almost completely blown up when Ed makes his announcements... he's not just shuffling deck chairs, he's going to be amalgamating ministries, moving departments from one ministry to another, creating new ministries... it all sounds simple, but take it from someone whose job it is to know who to call up the ladder - when they start moving the ladders, things get VERY complicated on the ground. Shirley McClellan has a shot at staying Minister of Finance. Everything else is up in the air. People who have proven to be capable ministers (who haven't already been mentioned) might be up for jobs, or Ed may have specific people in mind, due to their abilities, for ministries we don't even know yet will EXIST on Dec. 15th. Some of those whose past cabinet work has been notable include Iris Evans, Clint Dunford, and Heather Forsyth.

Past Cabinet experience will be helpful to Ed, but someone too associated with the "old guard" might prove a liability, so Stelmach will have to balance the 2 concerns carefully. Also needing balancing is the proportion of ministers from the North vs. the South, and also Urban vs. Rural. Any chinks in the armour that the Liberals can use to drive a wedge between Ed and voters, they will. Count on it.

And of course, the elephant in the room that nobody wants to deal with... what do you do with Ted Morton? He's got devoted followers who are party members (for now), but if you put him in too high-profile a position, you run the risk of having him embarass the province or the premier. Added to this is the fact that he's only been an MLA for 2 years. Offer something big, you risk offending long-time MLA's with more seniority (who are generally much better organized to help, or NOT help, your next leadership campaign). If you offer him something too small, you run the risk of offending him and his support, and then you may be facing him as the Leader of another party, along with his devoted followers, in 2 years time. MY guess is that we'll see Morton in the Cabinet, as something along the lines of "Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal and Reform". A 2-year gig, one of his pet projects, and if he does the job well, you can promote him down the line and the ministry will be self-destroying - the better it does its job, the sooner it can vanish.


- ES


Duncan said...

I'll add a couple of names I expect - Dave Hancock (Edmonton, turned out thousands of voters for Ed) and Ray Danyluk (behind Ed from the beginning, and a great guy). I'm also hoping Lloyd Snelgrove will see a post (supported Ed, currently an SPC chair).

Enlightened Savage said...

Duncan: I cannot BELIEVE I forgot about Dave Hancock - I expect him to see a large portfolio, perhaps Community Development or Health.

Anonymous said...

These comments are pretty perceptive and accurate.

Anonymous said...

ES: Ed's in tough with respect to choosing his cabinet. I think we're all agreed he's got more than the usual complement of worries to deal with - the kind you more often associate with a change in government between political parties rather than "just" a leadership change within the governing party. Ultra high expectations from a number of very divergent camps. Tricky stickhandling, thin ice.

Ted and Lyle in particular present Ed with a real challenge. Both think they could have been Premier under slighly different circumstances and will want major portfolios. They won't be shy about reminding Ed they helped push him over the top from their strong rural base.

Ed's recent vigorous statements about protecting Alberta's rights and riches against all comers might be more than a sop to Ted and his supporters or a deliberate effort to appear as a confident, forceful leader. He might be setting Ted up for Intergovernmental. Haven't we been assured that Ted is sympatico with Stephen Harper, his friend in Ottawa? Gunboat diplomacy, anchors away! I hope I qualify when Stephen agrees to define the Albertois as a nation within a united Canada:) Ted could take on that Dion fellow, too, if he were the next PM, which given Alberta's freshly-minted saber rattling is an even more distinct possibility.

And Lyle... I think figuring out what to do with Lyle would require the wisdom of Solomon. I have no idea. Fun to watch, though. How about Treasurer? Blow it up real good:) Just kidding, I hope. But he'll want a front row seat.

I'm glad Duncan mentioned Dave Hancock, and know that was a simple oversight on your part. Dave is brilliant and absolutely devoted to Albertans and the party. Ed will lean heavily on him for policy advice as part of his kitchen cabinet and give him a major portfolio.

Iris Evans - in, but where? Will she want to finish off some things at Health?

Shirley McClellan - can she stay in cabinet when Ed was elected as the anti-establishment guy? It's a plum post, does he need to free it up for a major campaign contributor, or use it to bind up wounds in the party?

Gary Mar - out, maybe? Experienced and accomplished, but will spark hravily with Ted. And Gary has openly mused about other life opportunites.

Luke Ouellette, Ed's only significant cabinet supporter right from the start - big portfolio. Clint Dunford, in. Pearl Callahasen, in. Hung Pham - golly gosh.

On the bubble or out: Harvey Cenaiko, Rob Renner, Ty Lund.

Choosing cabinet is Ed's first opportunity to demonstrate the Churchillian qualities that many of is supporters ascribe to him, but have been hidden in plain sight for others who know him more as a "super nice guy". I really like Ed, but I wonder if you come by the nickname Steady Eddie because you're prone to displays of bold, imaginative and decisive leadership:)

And when you dotake a step, like reducing the size of cabinet, do you inadvertently create confusion and lag just when you need to proceed agressively on several fronts at once?

Sorry for the long posting. Offering opinion from the comfort of my armchair is safe and fun. Ed is a far better man than me, so I'm glad he's making the actual calls.

I wonder if Jim might have dodged a bullet, though:)

Anonymous said...

"The Deputy Premier almost certainly has to come from Calgary, or the Tories risk losing more than a few votes to a Liberal party eager to capitalize on an attention-starved Calgary... Possibilities include Harvey Cenaiko, Ron Stevens, and Gary Mar. If you're betting, go with Stevens."

I don't disagree with you, even though I hate to see geography trump a combination of loyalty and ability. Ron Stevens may be the best of the three you gave, but I would also throw Melchin out there as another option. Harvey Cenaiko is a nice guy (oops, yet another "nice guy" reference), but he was a scared rabbit throughout the leadership campaign - it was as though he had to get into as many photo ops as possible with Jim Dinning to satisfy his constituency association of where his loyalties lay.

In my opinion, Mar definitely does not deserve it. Take some previously questionable associations (Kelly Charlebois' verbal "consulting" agreements, I recall), and couple it with a good ol' knife in the back for Ed, and I'd say his chances for deputy premier are pretty much close to zero. If I were Ed, and Gary is lucky I am not, Mar would be riding the pine in the backbenches until the next election, if not longer.

P.S. Zwoz, Lukasuk, exit stage left (Ukrainian/Polish last names notwithstanding)

Enlightened Savage said...

Kevin & Anon:

These are exciting times, for sure... in Alberta, this is as close to whole-scale government change as we can get, except for once a generation.

Ed's got a lot of balancing to do, as I said - he's raised expectations even further, by promising a cabinet that is "balanced geographically and by gender". So geographical and chromosome-al considerations WILL be taken into account, hopefuly in conjunction with (rather than taking PRECEDENCE over) qualifications.

The Gary Mar/Ted Morton feud within the government promises to be fun to watch. Ted's people are going to demand a seat at the table for him, and as I said I expect he'll end up in the Cabinet, but Mar has shown himself to be a capable minister in several different portfolios. Anonymous is right in that he's shown some questionable judgement in the past, which may limit how high he can climb in the Stelmach Government heirarchy, but capable administrators in safe seats are generally good bets in a Cabinet shuffle.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought...

What will we have to talk about after the 15th? ;-)

Enlightened Savage said...

Well, with upcoming votes in the House of Commons on Same-Sex Marriage, the RCMP Commissioner flip-flopping on Arar, the Federal Tories accused of influence-peddling, and a new leader of the Federal Liberals (all that in the past few days)... I think we'll have a thing or two to talk about. :)

Anonymous said...

ES and Anon: Always lots to talk about. It WILL feel a bit like the long summer after the playoffs are over, though. Maybe the New Look GOA will keep things interesting, on purpose or not:)

Last thoughts on the cabinet.

Rob Renner: I take it back.

Agriculture: Dunno. Maybe Shirley McClellan if she needs to vacate Treasurer, and I think she'll have to.

Guy Boutilier: A Northern Light, which is important right now, and Ft McMurray needs special TLC. But Guy's high octane gallop through life has developed a wobble. He may not be movin' on down the road, but could be movin' on down to a lesser portfolio.

Iris Evans: A caring, gritty and extremely hard working Minister. May be too shackled to the failed Third Way to stay at Health if Ed needs a new face for a fresh start. Iris will be high profile, though. Maybe Environment? A woman's touch for Mother Earth?

Doug Horner: In. Recognized as a potential Premier for the next round. Maybe Transportation? Or is that Luke Ouellette's new job?

Lyle Oberg: Community Development, as a smaller department that doesn't exactly qualify as purgatory. Keeps him in Ed's field of vision. Also has a more urban flavour to it; libraries, arts, culture, museums, even parks. Detaches Lyle slightly from his rural power base. And no more opportunites for cutting big infrastructure cheques, ever.

Ted Morton: I'm serious about Intergovernmental! He could sure hold up his end of the conversation. The kick-butt "I'm Supportin' Morton" crowd would be ecstatic. And it puts him on a leash with respect to beaking off about some of his favourite PCPA-dividing interests; as IIR Minister, he could speak freely in cabinet and caucus about those things but he'd have to toe the party line in his public pronouncements.

Dave Hancock: I'm calling him for Treasurer.

I appreciate your comment about still selecting Ministers for merit when you're scoping out their other "qualities". And I heartily agree that Ed has a real balancing act to perform. Change management is tough enough after a leadership race, then you toss in the special circumstances. Not saying it's impossible for Ed - just going to be hard. The bar is being set pretty high by all those people who voted believing Things Will Be Different Now.

Last word to my wife about Ed's strong rural support that propelled him into the Premier's office, and its durability: "You can't please a farmer."

Ben said...


I don't know if that is a common joke or pun you have in the title, but I found it quite amusing. Well done.