PHOTOS: Here’s my shot of the crowd as it began to break up after the ceremony had ended and I’d managed to run upstream to the steps of the Legislature. The Canadian Press photo below shows what the crowd looked like as Premier Rachel Notley and her cabinet were sworn in half hour or so before. Below that: Part of the crowd; Ms. Notley and her cabinet, plus sundry officials; Ms. Notley and her cabinet emerge from the Legislature Building.

If you want a measure of the true popularity of Alberta’s New Democratic Party government just now, in Edmonton anyway, consider the multitude that assembled in the warm sunshine Sunday afternoon to watch Premier Rachel Notley and her 11 cabinet colleagues sworn in.

There had to be 10,000 people in front of the Alberta Legislature at least, all but a couple of them wearing smiles and no shortage clad in NDP orange as well as Ms. Notley and her cabinet members were sworn in one by one in the sunlight by Chief Justice Catherine Fraser on the steps of the building.

Premier Notley wasn’t the only person “flabbergasted” by the size of the crowd. But she did have access to the microphone, telling them, “I’m humbled, truly humbled.” The most common remark among spectators: “I never thought I’d live to see this day.”

Even if we assume that a couple of thousand were there just to dip their feet in the reflecting pond or happened to wander over to see what all the commotion was about or get some of the promised free ice cream, that’s a pretty good turnout for what was essentially a stiffly formal procedural matter of state involving principally the swearing of long oaths to maintain cabinet secrecy.

It was a change from recent swearings-in by Progressive Conservative governments, most of which took place safely inside the walls of the Legislature Building, well away from the danger of sunlight or protest – not unlike the policies the principals of those proceedings had gathered to brew up.

Indeed, with additional symbolism, Ms. Notley had the front doors of the Legislature – locked since the Parliament Hill shooting on Oct. 22 last year – flung open to the public, although with a discreet security check inside, not to mention some much needed fresh air.

The only recent outdoor exception to the PC rule that I can recall was the swearing-in ceremony for Ed Stelmach, Alberta’s unlucky Premier No. 13 and probably the best of the PC premiers, if not the most successful, since Peter Lougheed founded the dynasty that Ms. Notley formally brought to an end yesterday.

Mr. Stelmach’s first moment as premier, perhaps typically, was in mid-December and the temperature felt bitterly cold, even if the Ukrainian choir was nice. Yesterday, as fit the mellow mood and the mellow weather, music was provided by a folkie band called 100 Mile House.

It’s a sign of how bad the recent run of PC premiers has been since Mr. Stelmach stepped aside just three years and seven months ago that Ms. Notley is Alberta Premier No. 17!

While there were no real shocks at the names and faces in Ms. Notley’s new cabinet, though some surprises at the portfolios they were handed.

Ms. Notley is premier, of course, and minister of intergovernmental affairs. The other 11:

  • Deron Bilous Minister of Municipal Affairs and Service Alberta
  • Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
  • Joe Ceci, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance
  • David Eggen, Minister of Education, Culture and Tourism
  • Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice, Solicitor General and Aboriginal Affairs
  • Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health and Seniors
  • Brian Mason, Government House Leader, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation
  • Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy
  • Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment, Sustainable Resource Development, Parks and Status of Women
  • Ifran Sabir, Minister of Human Services
  • Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Innovation, Advanced Education, Jobs, Skills and Labour

All four NDP veterans of the last Legislature are in the cabinet. The average age is a couple of years under 50, depending on when Mr. Carlier was born, and the gender balance is 50/50. For this list, their portfolio titles were abbreviated by me.

But while Ms. Notley’s tiny cabinet is a good strategic move now, to get the government rolling quickly and take time to train some new MLAs with ministerial potential, it is said here it is going to have to grow a little within the next couple of years to prevent burn-out from the heavy responsibilities now assigned.

When that happens, of course, the opposition members and media commentators who complained the cabinet was too small will then complain it’s gown too big, but I guess you could argue that goes with the ample territory.

Near the end of her remarks, Ms. Notley observed: “Young and old, gay and straight, and more women than ever before … My friends, it is springtime in Alberta and a fresh wind is blowing.”

That assessment seems about right!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

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16 Comments

  1. re: Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

    Finally! Some reality based organization. Truth in politics.
    But kinda’ weird that it happens under a progressive gov’t.

    Forestry/industry is inherently premised on the domestication of wild forests.

    Agri – culture. Silvi – culture.
    Transforming natural systems into ‘managed’ systems.

    Predictable outputs include: Old-growth forest minimization.
    Forest fragmentation —> Caribou extinction.

    Wildlife and wilderness decimation escalated since Getty and Fjordbotten give-aways of massive public land forest allocations to Al-Pac, and Daishowa-Marubeni and expanded allocations to existing medium-sized forest industry.

    Dozens of small timber saw-log operations were then also doomed by the large-scale industrial forest model.

    And now it’s far too late for AB NDP to restore any ecological sanity to AB forest use.

    The NDP will be entirely unable to implement policies to fix the ecological mess of AB’s public forests.

    Economic realities will prevent a scaling back of logging.
    Industry merely needs to hint at job loss…blackmail.

    1. Amendment to the weak attempt(above) at ironic/sarcastic point completely lost due to incomplete sentence… oops.

      re: But kinda’ weird that it happens under a progressive gov’t.

      Left out the balance of the idea ;( as follows:
      … when everyone knows that ONLY conservatives/managers are qualified to do reality based gov’t.

  2. I’m a little surprised that Premier Notley can go with a cabinet this small. There are some minister carrying several major portfolios (e.g.: Sigurdson, Phillips). I also believe that, just like the Minister of Justice should be a trained lawyer, the Minister of Health should be a healthcare professional.

    1. There is more than one school of thought on whether a minister should come from the same field she oversees. I hold the opposite view – a person of common sense, experience and good political and policy judgment but not from within the field is actually better in such a role than someone who is part of the intramural pecking order. As for the minister of justice having to be a lawyer, this, in my estimation, speaks more to the effectiveness of the law society as a trade union than anything else.

      1. I agree that medical professionals are not the best bets to run healthcare. Indeed, they are often the biggest barriers to positive change (for example: the unions and the AMA often oppose metrics to measure provider performance). Medical specialists are especially problematic because they often care most about their narrow domain–and we know that primary care and public health measures are both cheaper and more correlated with health status than specialty care. Of course, the logic that states Bob Turner should not be heath minister would also disqualify Eggen from being Education minister. Furthermore, Bob Turner and the NDP’s attacks on Stephen Mandel’s lack of experience in health care seem particularly absurd right now.

    1. Albertans have finally decided to clean house. It was my first time voting against PC due to mismanagement by Alison Redford and my opposition towards increased personal taxes by Jim Prentice. I hope the NDP will implement changes without negatively affecting oil and gas companies and jobs.

  3. Hey David, when i talked to one of the Sherriffs he told me they estimate close to 40000 showed up yesterday. Just so you it was even bigger.

  4. Too bad the election didn’t happen a month later. That way the swearing in ceremony could have been tied in with some sort of Summer Solstice “happening”. It would have been fun to see the legislative grounds turned into a Wicca fair, complete with stone circles, incense burning, chants to the Sun God, and every other pagan ritual you can think of.

    In ancient times giant fires lighted at sunset were very symbolic, a purifying force bringing health, fertility and prosperity to all. They were also used to drive out evil spirits, in this case what’s left of the PC dynasty.

    I would have enjoyed seeing Ezra Lavant turning purple over the freak show at the Alberta ledge. Who says ideologically-driven socialist can’t be New Agers?

      1. Be nice, Observer, we’re all the victims of auto-correct from time to time. I have corrected Ronmac’s comment to read “incense burning,” which I am sure is what he had in mind. I agree, however, that the suggestions embodied in this phrase are intriguing.

  5. The biggest Era of freedom and democracy ushered in was in Iraq when George W. Bush liberated their country from the despots and made them free citizens that they are today

  6. Lets hope the new government has a more inclusive bent and will actually listen to the electorate or it could be a very brief stay.

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