Saturday, May 5, 2012

Thank-you for calling Redford Cabinetry, Alison speaking..."

Nation, with every reason to believe that the new provincial cabinet will be announced this coming Monday or Tuesday, it's a good time to take a look at how Premier Alison Redford will be constructing her cabinet, the considerations that have to be taken into account, and whom is likely to be on the inside - and on the outside, looking in.


When Redford ascended to the PC Leadership last October, the cabinet had 23 members. She proceeded to trim it to 20 members. Opposition parties in the provincial election had pledged to keep cabinet at 16 members. And while the cost of having 5 or 6 more cabinet members than your opponent would propose is - quite literally - drops of water in the swimming pool of government spending, the political optics can't be ignored. Particularly on the heels of a report outlining how much cabinet members should make as opposed to rank-and-file MLA's. Redford has 60 MLA's to choose from, other than herself. The safest bet is that cabinet stays at 20 members, but don't be shocked if the final list has as few as 18 names on it.


Redford's caucus has 18 women, and 43 men. 30% of the PC caucus is female. That said, though, it's not the proportion of the governing caucus that Albertans look to in order to see themselves reflected in cabinet, it's the proportion of the population as a whole. Alberta has never even come CLOSE to a 50/50 gender split in the provincial cabinet. In the previous cabinet, her first as Premier, Redford was joined by only 2 other women. Clearly, as far as Alison is concerned, gender is not a major factor in cabinet eligibility (is there ANY job where it's okay to hire a less qualified candidate because of gender?).


Ah, the classic conundrum... a cabinet seat plants the party's flag on the parapet, and says to all who walk by that "the governing party is here, and proud to support the local MLA, who is one of our stars!". So, WHERE to plant those flags? Edmonton and Calgary are traditionally close to equal in terms of cabinet spots. Rural Alberta has been well-represented in the past as well, however once you leave Calgary - unless you're driving west - you're going to be on the highway for at least 90 minutes before you enter a PC-held riding again. So the pickings are slim in terms of non-Calgarian potential cabinet ministers from the southern end of the province.


These aren't typically HUGE factors in selecting a cabinet, but it's often useful when a government can choose members from its cabinet to send to events and know that the public won't necessarily perceive them as the "party of old, white people". A babyface or high melanin content shouldn't get you a cabinet job over someone more capable, but in the event of a tie, it might be a factor.


The last thing that a government wants to deal with is a cabinet minister who has gone "off the rails". Musing about legalizing prostitution, talking about a provincial sales tax, flapping their gums about issues that distract from the government agenda...  these are all possible drawbacks if going with a "loose cannon" in the cabinet. Some leaders like people who think outside the box... but if a government is going to stay focused on the issues of the day, it can't have a lot of Question Periods that start off with calls for this Minister or that Minister to resign over this statement or that scandal...


Redford's first cabinet didn't really have a whole tonne to DO, as far as legislation went. She brought them in after Thanksgiving, they served until March, and the people of Alberta decided to give this government 4 more years. So, they clearly weren't a disaster. That said, though, 5 of the previous cabinet minister won't be back, either as result of their own decision, or that of the voters. Of those who remain, here's who I feel (taking into account the 5 Considerations posted above) is the most safe:

Alison Redford - safe to say she won't be firing herself.
Doug Horner - will hold a key ministerial responsibility, as well as Deputy Premier
Dave Hancock - Minister of Everything, Kingpin of Edmonton, poster boy for the party's Progressive wing
Verlyn Olson - Rural, lawyer, reliable - he'll likely stay as Attorney General.
Diana McQueen - Great background, popular, capable. Rumours of a move to Energy, though that job is traditionally held by a Calgary-area MLA.
Jonathan Denis - Steady performer, young, a rock-solid Conservative voice in cabinet. If not as Solicitor-General, Denis has been rumoured to Energy or Finance, both good spots for a true blue Calgary MLA.
Doug Griffiths - Rural, young, a real passion for his current portfolio, and a big wheel in the party's renewal process.
Manmeet Bhullar - Solid performer, locally popular, young, a rising star in caucus.

Some of the new MLA's have resumes that make them hard to ignore when talking about cabinet potential. Among the rookies who could find their way to the cabinet room:

David Dorward - former candidate for Mayor of Edmonton, Dorward is an experienced accountant and community organizer. He could find himself in a junior cabinet spot as a stepping-stone to Finance or the Treasury Board in future cabinets.
Stephen Khan - won a landslide victory in St. Albert. Would be a good fit with Advanced Education & Technology.
Linda Johnson - Knocked off the Wildrose Deputy Leader, Paul Hinman, in Calgary-Glenmore. Personable and well-liked within caucus from her time as a PC Regional Office director. Could wind up with a junior posting and as Calgary's "political minister".
Donna Kennedy-Glans - As close to a shoo-in as you can get, Kennedy-Glans is a Calgary lawyer and former VP at Nexen Inc. Her name has been used in sentences including the word "Energy" in recent days.
Ric McIver - Popular mayoral runner-up in 2010, McIver would add another strong Conservative voice from Calgary to cabinet.
Ken Hughes - The former head of Alberta Health, Hughes has long been rumoured to be in the running for the Health portfolio.
Ron Casey - the popular former mayor of Canmore would be a natural fit in Tourism, Parks and Recreation. He's also the only "rural" PC MLA south of Red Deer, so that should help his chances.

There are a lot of current and former cabinet ministers in the PC caucus who would LOVE to have their phones ring on Sunday night. Among the ones most likely to get a call:

Greg Weadick, Lethbridge-West
Len Webber, Calgary-Foothills
Thomas Lukaszuk, Edmonton-Castle Downs
Heather Klimchuk, Edmonton-Glenora
Jeff Johnson, Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater

Of course, there are some who haven't served in cabinet, and who aren't rookies, who are eyeing a promotion as well. Among those more likely to get consideration is Cal Dallas - The Red Deer-South MLA has been rumoured for a promotion to Finance, where he previously served as parliamentary assistant.

Okay, so I cheated and listed 21 names. Rest assured, the final list will no doubt look VERY different than this. Some of the people I listed will NOT be given cabinet positions, and some of the cabinet will catch me completely by surprise. Any pundit who tells you different probably believes polling numbers, too. But, just for a lark, let's take a look at the "E.S.-designed cabinet" demographically:

  • Consideration 1: Size. 21 members. This is an INCREASE over the last cabinet, FAIL.
  • Consideration 2: Gender Balance. 5 women, 16 men. 2 more women than the first Redford cabinet. 50% of the province is female. 28% of the women in caucus get cabinet jobs. 37% of the men do. Still not good enough. FAIL.
  • Consideration 3: Regional Balance. I've got 8 Calgarians, 4 Edmontonians, 1 from Lethbridge, 1 from Red Deer, 1 "Rural" South, and 6 "Rural" North. Decent. Calgary can't outweigh Edmonton by THAT much, though there ARE 19 Calgary MLA's in the PC Caucus compared to 13 from Edmonton. MARGINAL PASS.
  • Consideration 4: Other Demographics. 7 of the 21 could be argued as "young". That's not bad. Only 2 visible minorities, though - there are certainly more than 2 qualified candidates for cabinet from that demographic category (at least 10 members of the PC caucus are visible minorities), so that number should really be higher. MARGINAL PASS.
  • Consideration 5: Reliability. There are a few names listed here that took political flack over legislation, but the potential for scandal is pretty low here. Hughes would be highly scrutinized during the Health Quality Council discussion on the health system. Lukaszuk had some campaign publicity. Griffiths and the AUPE had a pretty public spat over perceived political impropriety. But I don't see a Maxime Bernier-level implosion waiting to happen here. PASS.

Overall: 2 Fails, 2 Marginal Passes, 1 Pass. We've done far, far worse in our history than that. Call this cabinet a "win", with a few minor tweaks required.

Alison, Farouk: You're welcome. ;)

And a reminder, just in case you're truly stuck: Cabinet Minister don't HAVE to be elected MLAs - It's just tradition.

I'm available. :)

- E.S.


Anonymous said...

"there are some who haven't served in cabinet, and who aren't rookies, who are eyeing a promotion as well. Among those more likely to get consideration is Cal Dallas"

Ahem - Isn't Mr. Dallas the CURRENT Minister of Intergovernmental, International and Aboriginal Affairs??

Enlightened Savage said...

Right you are. I don't know what I was looking at... Good catch. My apologies, Mr. Minister...