Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced a few very minor tweaks to put a new pre-election face on her government today. She welcomed one new minister and gave additional responsibilities to an existing minister to replace two ministers who are not seeking re-election.
Backbench Calgary-Currie MLA Brian Malkinson was appointed to cabinet becoming the Minister responsible for Service Alberta which deals with licensing, registrations and consumer protection in the province.
In addition, Danielle Larivee, MLA for Lesser Slave Lake was given the role of Minister of Status of Women, in addition to her current responsibilities as Minister for Children’s Services.
Leaving cabinet are two Calgary MLAs who had announced in March that they would not be seeking re-election next spring. Stephanie McLean, the Service Alberta Minister and Minister for Status of Women had announced she would be returning to her law practice after the election. Brandy Payne, MLA for Calgary-Acadia and Associate Health Minister announced that she would be leaving to spend more time with her young daughter. In 2016, Payne was the first pregnant woman ever appointed to the Alberta cabinet.
The shuffle slightly decreases the size of cabinet to 19 cabinet ministers, plus the premier.
Albertans will go to the polls on or before May 31, 2019. Premier Notley’s New Democrats will face off against the United Conservative Party and its leader, Jason Kenney; the Alberta Liberals, led by David Khan; and, the Alberta Party who selected former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel as its leader in February.
Notley’s New Democrats face a steep challenge in a two-way race against the UCP. The NDP’s 2015 victory was, in part, the product of vote splitting between the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose parties. With the PCs and Wildrose now amalgamated, it is difficult to see how the NDP holds onto all of its current seats, particularly rural districts in a two-way contest. However, Notley remains more popular than her party in recent polls and has benefited from a communications strategy that has taken a play out of the conservative book to wrap herself in the Alberta flag, particularly in the fight against British Columbia over the Trans Mountain pipeline.
All parties have begun nominating candidates in the province’s 87 districts, including Finance Minister Joe Ceci who was nominated in his riding of Calgary-Buffalo over the weekend.
The Legislative Assembly recessed for the summer on June 7 and is scheduled to resume on Monday, October 29.