Thursday, March 13, 2008

Deconstructing Cabinet

Well, Nation, I figured since I was one of the first to break the news of the new cabinet, I'd let everyone else have a shot at analysis first.

Or I was really tired last night... either way.

On the superficial level, the cabinet comes a lot closer to a geographical and gender balance than any cabinet in recent memory. djkelly (who will be buying me a beer in the next 2 weeks) breaks down the cabinet on this basis, and overall I'd say if one were to just look at gender and geography, the cabinet balance is good. Still nowhere near 50/50 for men and women, but Ed has to work with what the voters give him. The cabinet is still not representative of the population when it comes to melanin-content, but it's better than it was. Call it a win.

I was surprised at the ouster of Guy Boutilier. Not that Guy's been an extraordinarily effective minister, or an exceptionally loyal member of the Stelmach caucus, but I figured that Fort McMurray would still have a voice at the table, being Alberta's economic heart and all. The 21% voter turn-out rate in the riding can't have helped.

Another surprise includes the appointment of Manmeet Bhullar as a Parliamentary Assistant in the area of Advanced Education. It's curious, because when last I checked, he was still a student IN the post-secondary system. This has pros and cons, which should be self-evident. My guess is, as a rookie MLA with a "half cabinet job", Manmeet might not have the time right now to finish off that Law degree. It's going to be a nice change of pace for the people of Montrose to hear the Speaker name their riding, though. I'm sure Speaker Ken forgot there WAS a member for Calgary Montrose over the past few years.

Dave Hancock is in a tough spot... with the unfunded liability deal having been reached, he's coming into a ministry that is rife with anecdotal nightmares, which are completely contradicted by empirical evidence. You can't go anywhere in this province without hearing about how there aren't enough schools, aren't enough teachers, the ATA is keeping the bad teachers employed, there's not enough money for supplies, there's not enough funding for the arts (THAT I agree with, especially in High School - parents have to pay $200-300 in fees a year just so H.S. Bands and Choirs can afford music), students are being left by the wayside, the schools are falling apart... and yet, in the education system, the only number that truly matters is the testing - which says that Alberta's students are, arguably, the best educated in the country, and some of the best educated in the world. So which is it? Is the system hopelessly underfunded and broken, or a shining example of how a system SHOULD be run, as proven by the results? The truth is somewhere in between - Dave's going to have to think outside the box and come up with ways to free up funding within the current system. This means identifying inefficiencies - which means the ATA is going to hate Dave Hancock. I don't envy you, sir.

For reasons that Ken Chapman waxed eloquently on a few days ago, Ron Stevens is a great choice for Intergovernmental Affairs. When he speaks, as Deputy Premier, it will carry weight in negotiation with other jurisdictions and levels of government.

Will the restoration of a ministry devoted exclusively to Aboriginal Affairs get Calgary's Ring Road built? If it does, Gene Zwozdesky can run for mayor of this town, and win handily.

Ted Morton remains in Sustainable Resource Development, but is still 7th from the bottom in precedence. Methinks Ted will enjoy remaining in SRD, however he can't be happy about the fact that rookie Alison Reford and minister of Children's Services Janis Tarchuk are above him in precedence. Now Ted has a chance to oversee the release of the promised-but-way-overdue Land Use Framework. Perhaps he's still there BECAUSE the framework is so overdue? Not being seen as a threat to Stelmach any longer (Ed did pretty well in the election), if Ted gets his ducks in a row, he MAY see a promotion in about 2 years. Maybe.

Cindy Ady in Tourism, Parks and Recreation will be interesting. She was the associate minister for Tourism most recently, so she'll have a good handle on that aspect of the ministry. I expect that her Deputy Minister will likely remain in place (update: he does), as the "Parks and Recreation" part of the job are pretty complex, and require a lot of co-ordination and negotiation with Minister Morton's SRD department.

Lastly (for now), I'm thrilled to see Lindsay Blackett in the cabinet, in the new position of Minister of Culture and Community Spirit. Having had the chance to meet Lindsay shortly before the writ was dropped, I found him to be an extremely articulate gentleman with a keen understanding of the difference between politics and policy. I was happy to see him elected as MLA, and believe that he will do just fine with this portfolio. He's already being quoted in the Calgary Sun, throwing up a big "pttttht!" to the Easterners who spat out their coffee when seeing that Alberta even HAS a Minister of Culture. Good for him - he's already catching on. ;-)

I'll be joining forces with a "Dream Team" of Alberta's finest centre-right bloggers to shine a little more light on some of the new faces in this cabinet. Look for that coverage this Friday, courtesy of such blogging luminaries as:

Ken Chapman
Alberta Tory
Phendrana Drifts

... oh yeah, and that Enlightened Savage guy. ;-)


DJ Kelly said...

I buy a beer for you because you sound like you need one. Certainly not because you were right.

Anonymous said...

Blackett seems like a decent guy, but no government should ever have a minister of culture. It's a waste of money - culture is entirely a role of the free market. If people want it, they will pay for it on their own without forcing taxpayers to do so.