Friday, December 15, 2006

Cabinet Analysis

Alright, here we go... first impressions. Just for fun, everyone who is (or was) a farmer at some point is marked with an asterisk (*). (My mother being a farm girl herself, I've got nothing against farmers, they just seem to be pretty numerous in the cabinet).

* Ed Stelmach (Premier) - I don't know, pretty risky choice. :P In fairness, only time will tell with many of these selections, but there's already an undercurrent of dissatisfaction from the cities about the disproportionate rural representation at the cabinet table. The Liberals would be smart to capitalize on this, especially in Edmonton and central Calgary.

* Lloyd Snelgrove (President of the Treasury Board) - The man who controls the province's purse strings. Represents a rural, Eastern riding, 5 years experience as an MLA, plenty of committee work, will essentially be Ed's right-hand man.

* Doug Horner (Minister of Advanced Education and Technology) - Solid business and agricultural backround, from the Greater Edmonton Area. He's been a pretty solid minister in the past (Agriculture), but you can't get much more opposite from Agriculture than Advanced Ed & Technology. His varied background indicates he'll be able to adapt.

Iris Evans (Minister of Employment, Immigration and Industry) - The Greater Edmonton Area MLA has served as Minister of Health for the past 2 years, and managed not to attract many of the slings and arrows tossed towards Ralph over the Third Way debacle. She's a safe choice, although she doesn't seem to have any specific expertise in the area.

* Mel Knight (Minister of Energy) - Mel founded and ran an energy sector service company in 1970 - hopefully, he's kept up on the changes that have happened in the sector since then. He's got an extremely varied background, and previously served on the Standing Policy Committee on Energy and Sustainable Development. Safe pick.

Dave Hancock (Minister of Health and Wellness) - The highest profile of Ed's second-ballot supporters in this cabinet. Part of Dave's leadership platform was the elimination of health-care premiums, and to use tax incentives to promote healthy choices. As Minister of Health, he has a chance to champion those causes. Dave was a good candidate, and has been a good minister in the past, he should do extremely well here. The ONLY Minister from an actual Edmonton riding.

* Ray Danyluk (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing) - Ray has served for several years on the Standing Policy Committee on Agriculture and Municipal Affairs, so the Municipal Affairs portfolio should contain few surprises for him. That being said, although this riding is adjaccent to Fort McMurray, the drastic infrastructure deficits in the larger centres makes this choice questionable. No one would argue that rural municipalities are also in desperate need of roads and bridges, but this position needed to be filled by someone from a major centre. He may not screw up, but Ed could have made some political hay with this choice, and didn't.

Ron Liepert (Minister of Education) - Ron is one of 3 Calgary ministers, and his first big challenge is to come to some sort of agreement with the Calgary Catholic teachers, who are threatening to strike by March. He's a first-term MLA with a business background, and his ability (or inability) to make deals and come to compromise is going to be on display in this ministry.

Janis Tarchuk (Minister of Children's Services) - As always, this portfolio goes to a female MLA, as men are clearly unable to administer children's issues (the Y chromosome hates children, it's a scientific fact). Janis has served on basically every committee in Edmonton EXCEPT Children's Services, and would have been a better fit in Education, or TPRC (Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture). That said, she's been an MLA since 1997, and knows the game. This may be a "test-drive", for Ed to see if she can handle something relatively harmless before a promotion to something more high-profile.

Rob Renner (Minister of Environment) - an MLA with 13 years experience, Renner has been Minister of Municipal Affairs for the past 2 years. He will have to work closely with the freshly-minted Minister of Sustainable Resource Development (Ted Morton), so hopefully they get along. Rob's a veteran at the game, and should do fine in the Environment portfolio, provided he remembers that there are some folks in Ottawa, also elected by Albertans, who also have a thing or 2 to say about the Environment.

* George Groeneveld (Minister of Agriculture and Food) - A first-term MLA, George's rap sheet reads exactly as you'd hope the Minister of Agriculture's would. He's gotten his hands dirty, he's run the business end of things, and he's dealt with the Wheat Board. Safe pick for a ministry that much of Ed's grassroots support will be dealing with.

Lyle Oberg (Minister of Finance) - This position, by virtue of the creation of the position of President of the Treasury Board, has effectively been reduced back to "Provincial Treasurer", as has the status of its holder. Fitting, then, that this is where Ed has chosen to give Lyle his chance to earn his way back into the good graces of his caucus colleagues. Lyle will have a chance here to be a bean-counter and unofficial auditor, while ministers will not have to come to Lyle on bended knee for funding, but instead will go to Lloyd Snelgrove. I can't see Lyle doing much damage here, and it may prove to be a good place to start his political rehabilitation.

* Luke Ouellette (Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation) - Who better to be able to identify transportation needs than someone who represents a riding near Gasoline Alley? Luke did a fine job as Minister of Restructuring and Government Efficiency, and didn't make too many waves in that job. This is quite a higher profile job, though, especially considering the screaming from all corners of the province about the infrastructure deficit. He'd better get used to hearing from Mandel, Bronco, and Ray Danyluk's offices, because they're about to become his best friends, or his worst enemies.

Ron Stevens (Minister of Justice and Attorney General) - Ron keeps his portfolio, and Calgary keeps an effective minister at the cabinet table. Nothing risky whatsoever about this choice - Stevens has done the job, knows the people in the department, and knows the ins and outs of both the system and the ministry. In this case, the status quo is a good thing.

Greg Melchin (Minister of Seniors and Community Supports) - Poor Greg... Calgary's 3rd and final minister, this is the one portfolio that NOBODY wants. Nobody wants it, because Seniors complain. A lot. And loudly. They certainly have the right to do so, and some very good reasons. But Greg Melchin's new job title more accurately reads "Whipping Boy for the Seniors of Alberta". Some may view Greg's demotion a few steps down the totem pole as being based on his socially conservative views, but the more accurate reality is that he's just a victim of numbers - not every Calgary minister can be a top-10 guy. Should do well, provided he has (or quickly develops) a thick skin.

Guy Boutilier (Minister of International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations) - Sheesh, try fitting all of that on one business card. Guy's going to have a steep learning curve here, but I think he's up to it. He's going to have to get used to speaking not just as an MLA, but as minister, ESPECIALLY as relates to his Aboriginal Relations portfolio. I've met Guy, and liked him. He's taken a lot of heat lately over a completely ridiculous performance he gave, on the record, and rightly so. Hopefully, he's learned from that experience and will keep his cabinet portfolio in mind whenever he speaks in public. Would have been better back in Municipal Affairs, but we'll see if he can learn the ropes before the Liberals try to take Ottawa back from those evil Harper Tories.

Ted Morton (Minister of Sustainable Resource Development) - There were whispers that Ted would end up here due to his love of the outdoors, and sure enough, here he is. This could either be a good chance for Ted to cool his heels and prove he's an able administrator, or an environmental catastrophe in the making, given his close personal relationships with (and possible large monetary contributions to his leadership bid by) several people whose job it is to cut down as many trees as possible. If Ed knows of Ted's ties to the sawmills and keeps a leash on him, this may work out. But the conservation groups that have dealt with Ted, to absolutely no avail, since he became an MLA for an area with logging issues are going to be beside themselves over this appointment, and with good reason.

Fred Lindsay (Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security) - Oy... there are bad fits, and then there are bad fits. Fred Lindsay's entire, on-the-record, relationship with Law Enforcement and Security reads like this: "auxiliary constable with Parkland County from 1972 to 1974". Period. Harvey Cenaiko did a god job in this portfolio, and as a former cop was suited to the job. A victim of the "Urban vs. Rural" numbers game, though, this ministry loses Harvey and gets Fred Lindsay. If Fred realizes that the first step to wisdom is to admit that you know nothing, this COULD work out, in the long term. In the short-term, though, this office had better have a good Assistant Deputy Minister who's been there a while, or this could get messy.

* Hector Goudreau (Minister of Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture) - The re-named Community Devlopment portfolio finds itself with some castaways in the areas of film and tourism, which had been under other ministries previously. Hector looks like a close runner up fr the Agriculture ministry, so some of the haughty folks from the "Culture" portion of the portfolio are going to be somewhat miffed they're begging for dollars from a farmer. He'll have to work closely with the Minister of SRD (Ted Morton) and the Minister of Environment (Rob Renner), so hopefully the 3 get along, or can at least be professional. In my experience, rural folks can generally put hard feelings aside to get the job done, so hopefully Hector can do so for all 3 of them, as neither Rob nor Ted are exactly the farming type.

So, for the record: 8 current or former farmers in a 19-person cabinet. Not TOO bad, but of more concern is the fact that there are a total of 4 ministers from within the limits of the 2 cities that account for 52% of the provincial population. There is a real chance for the Liberals to attack the cities on this underrepresentation in the cabinet.

In the near future, I'll review Ed's campaign platform, and look at which ministers will be responsible for following up on which ideas.

As if THIS wasn't enough, there's word we may have a Federal Cabinet shuffle in the works, in advance of a possible NDP motion to cause the Federal Government to fall, and give us a spring election...

I have GOT to get me some sponsors, so I can quit my job and blog all day. These darn politicians won't give me a moment's peace. :P

- ES


Anonymous said...


Small thing, but is your definition of "farmer" anyone who lives outside of a town or city? There is a lot of "country-gentry" outside of my city that frankly would not be able to anatomically describe the differences between a bull and a steer. Or a bull from a cow even.

As a former farm-boy myself, I do take exception to your implication that agriculture and technology are polar opposites when it comes to knowledge. Farming has - and continues to become - a more technologically advanced process. That is the reason you pay only $2 a loaf of bread these days, and the cost of grain in that loaf can be easily counted out in pennies. The operation of even what would be considered a small family-farm these days gets ever more complicated. So does the financing. I know I could probably not make a go of it. The sale of your products (depending on the type) can be in the open market, and you can hedge your production by purchasing futures contracts. So there you have it, technology, high finance, and scale economies - just like any other business that competes globally. Just something to consider.

P.S. I kind of like the idea of the "no-foam, half-whip, extra hot, caramel latte" Culture crowd asking for money from a farmer. Appropriate, since some (a small portion) of the funded work would be suitable for fertilizer anyway.

Enlightened Savage said...

Anon: For the purposes of my asterisks, I considered a "farmer" to be "any MLA who, in their official government bio, mentioned that they had or currently worked on a farm belonging to them or to someone else". So, those 8 ministers are current or former farmers. Say THAT 10 times, quickly. :)

I won't argue that the sort of technology that goes into farming today, mechanical and biological, would make my old Grandad Buchanan's eyes cloud over were he still alive, and he was one hell of a farmer in his day. However, when the focus of the Ministry of Science and Innovation has been on promoting the discovery of technologies to aid in reclaimation of the Oilsands, improve medical care and efficiency, and find clean energy initiatives, I just don't know if they wouldn't have been better off going with someone like Victor Doerksen.

NOBODY is more ingenuitive and a better improvisor than the Alberta farmer... our farmers, of whom I consider myself a proud descendant, found rocky land with hardly any water and trees and hills and poor soil all over the place, and carved out through ther wits and their hard work the province we see today. But now that we're dealing with lasers, MRI's, and microchips, I've just got to believe that there are people out there better suited to steer the technological ship of state.

Anonymous said...


Fair enough. Nice to know you come from good stock. Wanted to say I very much enjoy this site. I hope you keep it up. I read a few other blogs and some of them have unfortunately been tarnished by hit-and-run "anonymous" bloggers, with one-line insults to political figures and other posters.

The comment moderation you have enabled does slow down discussion. However, I think it does contribute to a more, shall we say, "enlightened" debate ;-)

P.S. - Did you get a minister you can live with running your department? You mentiond there were 2 MLAs you were praying would not take over, but you thought the odds were not good.

Enlightened Savage said...

Anon: Thanks for the props. As for the moderated comments, I had a hard time initially deciding whether to go moderated or unmoderated, but ultimately decided that I wanted to be responsible for everything that people see on my site, whether or not it has my real name on it. I think it takes a bit away from the spontanety and flow of discussion, but what it lacks in quantity it, so far, more than makes up for in quality. And, most importantly (to me), I've avoided the "drive-by smears" that so many blogs fall prey to - I was there at the Internet's birth (No, I'm not Al Gore), I remember flame wars and what they can do to the credibility of the site hosting them.

And although I'm not exceedingly familiar with my new minister, I'm pleased to say that they are NOT one of the 2 I was so concerned about, so I'll count my blessings. :)

- ES