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thumb-2023-06-02-danielle-smith-cabinet This article is more than 10 months old
Analysis

Danielle Smith is Appointing a New Cabinet. It Won’t Look Anything Like Jason Kenney’s Old Cabinet.

New names, rural-focused government expected in Alberta

Albertans will learn Friday what the new conservative regime will look like with Premier Danielle Smith at the helm.

What’s certain is that Danielle Smith’s new cabinet won’t be like Former Premier Jason Kenney’s, with so much of the original cabinet lineup wiped out.

Smith lost eight cabinet ministers in the election, with six failing to win their seats, leaving an opening to form an entirely new government free of Kenney’s influence.

 

Major cabinet posts vacant

Big names from the last government fell on election night, including key insiders from Kenney’s UCP. This included important cabinet ministers.

The province now has vacancies in crucial portfolios including Health, Finance, Justice, Environment, Social Services and Mental Health and Addiction.

This is not to say things had been stable under the previous leadership—there were many shuffles along the way. The province’s next justice minister will be the fifth in the last four years.

 

Rural domination

Smith’s new government is geographically lopsided, with three-quarters of the caucus from outside the main cities. To fill cabinet positions, Smith will draw heavily from rural candidates.

Edmonton will be completely shut out from the new cabinet because the capital city didn’t elect a single UCP MLA. Meanwhile, Calgary elected a dozen conservatives.

 

Take Back Alberta’s influence 

The group that credits itself with ousting Jason Kenney, getting Smith elected as party leader, and taking over half the party’s board, also played a key role in this election.

Take Back Alberta leveraged its dedicated volunteer base to support conservative candidates across the province, focusing on 39 key ridings. Weekly training seminars were held for their volunteers on how to get conservatives elected.

TBA grew out of the convoy occupation and the Coutts border blockade and has since devoted itself to helping Smith as well as any anti-mandate candidates on their radar. They are mainly made up of Christian nationalists, Alberta separatists, and disgruntled rural Albertans.

One of their favourites was Eric Bouchard, who won in Jason Kenney’s former riding of Calgary Lougheed with TBA support. Bouchard lost his restaurant business during the pandemic and is known for expletive-laden social media posts against COVID-19 restrictions.

Another TBA favourite was first-time candidate Brandon Lunty, who won his riding of Leduc-Beaumont.

 

Who made it

One notable holdout from the Kenney era going forward is Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks, who won his seat in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre despite a challenge from TBA leader Tim Hoven, who faced him as an independent.

Nixon’s seat became a flashpoint of tension between the TBA wing of the party and the Kenney establishment. The riding was targeted by TBA following the Coutts blockade, when Hoven challenged him for the local nomination. Hoven was disqualified by the party.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange held her Red Deer seat. As Minister she oversaw the UCP’s K-6 curriculum, which critics have described as “rushed” and “age inappropriate.”

Brian Jean, who clashed with both Smith and Kenney throughout his career in party leadership races, also kept his seat in Fort McMurray as Minister of Jobs, Economy, and Northern Development.

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Who didn’t

Here’s a look at some of Kenney’s original lineup that didn’t make it past election day:

 

Doug Schweitzer 

Once a leadership contender against Jason Kenney, Schweitzer resigned in August without giving a reason. He served as Justice Minister, then moved to Jobs, Economy and Innovation.

 

Tyler Shandro 

Shandro’s time as Health Minister was a disaster. He chased doctors out of the province during the pandemic by unilaterally scrapping their master agreement with the government, and supported building the largest private hospital in the province’s history.

He also personally confronts his critics. In March 2020, Shandro made a house call to a doctor that criticized him with a meme on Facebook. The same doctor said he feared for his family’s safety following the incident, for which Shandro has ended up before a Law Society tribunal.

Shandro lost his riding by a couple dozen votes in a recount.

 

Travis Toews

As Finance Minister, Toews was seen as an establishment pick and natural successor to Kenney, but lost to Danielle Smith in the UCP leadership race.

Toews has also served as a Director for a religious school that banned sorcery, gay sex, yoga, and other “demonic activities.”

He announced his departure from politics a month before the election campaign.

 

Sonya Savage

As Energy Minister, Savage helped create Kenney’s $30 million oil “war room,” known as the Canadian Energy Centre. As Minister, she was also responsible for the anti-Alberta activities inquiry, which failed to turn up any evidence of wrongdoing against the province’s oil and gas sector.

Savage, who served briefly as Environment Minister under Smith, announced her departure from politics the same day Toews did.

 

Kaycee Madu

Madu was the UCP’s only Edmonton incumbent when he lost his seat. He’s held four cabinet positions since 2019: Municipal Affairs, Justice and Solicitor General, Labour and Immigration, and Skilled Trades and Professions.

 

Jeremy Nixon

The Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services, and brother of Jason Nixon, lost his Calgary seat.

 

Jason Copping

Alberta’s Health Minister lost his seat in Calgary Varsity. Copping took over the portfolio from Tyler Shandro.

 

Nicholas Milliken

Milliken was Infrastructure Minister under Kenney, before moving to Mental Health and Addictions under Smith. He lost his seat in Calgary.

 

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Stephen Magusiak
Reporter
Stephen Magusiak is PressProgress’ Alberta reporter. His reporting has a focus on public accountability, public services and privatization, and the right-wing war on environmentalists.

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