Alberta Politics
Looking justifiably pleased with himself, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney moments after he was sworn in yesterday (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta video).

It takes all kinds to make a cabinet, not necessarily good news when Jason Kenney’s making the picks

Posted on May 01, 2019, 2:03 am
10 mins

Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party cabinet contains a guy who once went down south to campaign for Donald Trump, a woman who opposes school gay-straight alliances and wrote a university president attacking a professor’s critical commentary on Catholic education, a man who fired a single mom he employed after she complained about sexual harassment, and a fellow who says the folks in his riding came from “superior stock,” even if that “reeks of ‘Arian’ undertones.”

Other than that, though, they mostly seem OK at first glance!

Red Tape Reduction Associate Minister Grant Hunter (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether that’s good news or bad news.

Mr. Kenney was sworn in as premier at about 10 a.m. yesterday and his Calgary-heavy 23 member cabinet (20 if you don’t count the “associate” members) took the oath immediately afterward at Government House in Edmonton. As befitted the occasion, it was snowing outside.

Count on it, the new UCP cabinet will get down to business quickly enacting the radical ideas in Mr. Kenney’s Revenge Platform that will send a lot of Canadians and considerable numbers of Albertans into a swivet, but about which no one can deny the former Harper Government cabinet minister has a powerful mandate to implement.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The UCP started by proclaiming the NDP’s unconstitutional turn-off-the-taps-to-B.C. statute into law, immediately opening the way for the government of B.C. to take it to court. So as far as the NDP goes, it seems like the UCP strategy is to keep the bad ideas and dispose of the rest.

There will likely be a rush of good news economic announcements as the oil industry brings its capital strike to an end – although, God knows why they bothered because they got pretty well everything they wanted from the NDP as well. Regardless, this will soon run out of steam because the economic fundamentals haven’t changed very much.

In the new premier’s defence, he doesn’t really have any caucus members to pick from Edmonton and you can’t blame him for wanting to stay away from the remnants of the Wildrose Party D-team that made up his last UCP caucus in the Alberta Legislature – especially the ones that supported Brian Jean for the UCP leadership.

Prominent LGBTQ rights activist Dr. Kristopher Wells (Photo: CBC).

Presumably he reckoned, in this case, better the devils you don’t know than the devils you do.

President Trump’s enthusiastic, famously MAGA-hatted campaign supporter is Devin Dreeshen, the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, who becomes minister of agriculture. Mr. Dreeshen said after his American sojourn he just went Stateside to learn about the U.S. political system. I doubt anyone believes him about that, even his father, Conservative Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen.

The appointment of Adriana LaGrange as education minister is a pretty strong indicator Mr. Kenney intends to get on with his program of gutting protections of LGBTQ young people, although of course his rhetoric will claim the opposite. Ms. LaGrange is the former president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association who wrote the University of Alberta assailing Dr. Kristopher Wells for saying Catholic schools were failing to protect their students. U of A President David Turpin told her, presumably more politely than this, to get lost.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Facebook).

In this regard, she seems well suited to play the role of cabinet’s Cruella de Vil.

As for Jason Nixon, who was Mr. Kenney’s House Leader in Opposition, he once criticized an NDP bill requiring employers to take measures to protect their employees by insisting they could be trusted to do the right thing. Shortly afterward, a ruling of the B.C. Human Rights Commission came to light outlining a case in which Mr. Nixon fired a female employee soon after she complained of being sexually harassed by a customer.

Mr. Nixon may have had some run-ins with a neighbour and officials, but no one can say he’s not popular with voters in his Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding, where he was elected by the largest majority in the province on April 16.

As environment minister, I imagine Mr. Nixon will prove to be a boon to the environmental movement’s fund-raising efforts. I wouldn’t be surprised the emails are already flowing out. He may even be the man who Makes Environmental Charities Great Again!

Former UCP bad boy and Freedom Conservative Party leader Derek Fildebrandt (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Then there’s Grant Hunter, MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner in the Mormon heartland of deep-south Alberta. He’s only an “associate minister,” though, so I suppose we don’t have to worry about his “superior stock” musings as the cabinet supremo of the newly created bureaucracy devoted to eliminating red tape. You’ve got to love the concept!

Still, given this minister’s past commentary, it’s a good thing Mr. Kenney’s erstwhile homeland star candidate Caylan Ford didn’t make it into the caucus or cabinet, huh?

As for the others, mostly we’ll need to wait and see. I bet the research team at Press Progress is combing through their resumes right now!

The new premier, in addition to repeating his vow to stand up against other governments and “foreign-funded” environmental charities, praised “ordered liberty” and called for “a society that places gratitude over resentment.” Is it just me, or does this mishmash strike a faintly discordant note?

Meanwhile, Derek Fildebrandt, former rising star of the Alberta conservative movement and sometime bad boy of two conservative parties who was soundly defeated in the Chestermere-Strathmore riding on April 16 by Leela Aheer, announced yesterday he is stepping aside as leader of the Freedom Conservative Party.

The FCP, which emerged from the general election with zero seats, had been adopted by Mr. Fildebrandt after he was kicked out of the UCP by Mr. Kenney last year for a series of politically embarrassing misadventures.

Mr. Fildebrandt told me he will not be running in the federal election, as many had speculated, or any other election. “I am just done with politics,” he stated. “I don’t run for MP, MLA or dog catcher.”

So long, Derek, we’re going to miss you!

Ms. Aheer, meanwhile, was sworn in as minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women.

The Kenney Cabinet on Day 1 of the Kenney Government

Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Relations: Jason Kenney, Calgary-Lougheed
Minister of Finance, President of Treasury Board: Travis Toews, Grande Prairie-Wapiti
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General: Doug Schweitzer, Calgary-Elbow
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry: Devin Dreeshen, Innisfail-Sylvan Lake
Minister of Transportation: Ric McIver, Calgary-Hays
Minister of Health: Tyler Shandro, Calgary-Acadia
Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism: Tanya Fir, Calgary-Peigan
Minister of Education: Adriana LaGrange, Red Deer-North
Minister of Environment and Parks: Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
Minister of Energy: Sonya Savage, Calgary-North West
Minister of Community and Social Services: Rajan Sawhney, Calgary-North East
Minister of Seniors and Housing: Josephine Pon, Calgary-Beddington
Minister of Children’s Services: Rebecca Shultz, Calgary-Shaw
Minister of Indigenous Relations: Richard Wilson, Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin
Minister of Advanced Education: Demetrios Nicolaides, Calgary-Bow
Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women: Leela Aheer, Chestermere-Strathmore
Minister of Labour and Immigration: Jason Copping, Calgary-Varsity
Minister of Municipal Affairs: Kaycee Madu, Edmonton-South West
Minister of Infrastructure: Prasad Panda, Calgary-Edgemont
Minister for Service Alberta: Nate Glubish, Strathcona-Sherwood Park
Associate Minister for Red Tape Reduction: Grant Hunter, Taber-Warner
Associate Minister of Natural Gas: Dale Nally, Morinville-St. Albert
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions: Jason Luan, Calgary-Foothills

20 Comments to: It takes all kinds to make a cabinet, not necessarily good news when Jason Kenney’s making the picks

  1. Jerrymacgp

    May 1st, 2019

    A couple of observations about the new Cabinet:
    – I find it interesting that Mr Kenney did not appoint his former Health Critic, Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao, to be Health Minister … that he instead chose a political neophyte over an experienced MLA can be interpreted as a compliment to the NDP’s handling of the oft-fraught healthcare file. Had there been fires seen to be needing to be put out in Health, he would have chosen a more experienced firefighter to take on this role.
    – the appointment of GP-Wapiti MLA Travis Toews as Minister of Finance is groundbreaking in one respect: as fas as I can find our, he is the northernmost MLA to ever serve as Alberta’s Finance Minister. The closest the North has come before to this, was Robin Campbell, PC MLA for West Yellowhead from 2008 to 2015, who served as Finance Minister in the short-duration Jim Prentice government. But while West Yellowhead is somewhat northern, it is south of Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
    – Mr Toews does carry some so-con baggage, although how that will affect the business of provincial budgeting remains to be seen: he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Peace River Bible Institute, a small evangelical Christian theological college in Sexsmith, 20 km north of Grande Prairie, which has a strict code of conduct for students and staff that is, shall we say, unfriendly to more modern notions of morality, like acceptance of LGBTQ2S+ persons. Fortunately he wasn’t given the Advanced Ed portfolio.

    • David Climenhaga

      May 1st, 2019

      Tany Yao, if I recall correctly, backed Brian Jean in the leadership contest, a clear case from Dear Leader’s perspective of Right Deviationism. He’ll be lucky if the secret police don’t show up on his doorstep at 3 a.m. DJC

  2. Magda

    May 1st, 2019

    Not to be *that* person, but you have two different photos with a Jason Nixon caption. Just an FYI.

  3. Mike

    May 1st, 2019

    With Mr. Nixon as Env. Minister, it will be very interesting to see the battle in the Leg between him and Ms. Philips.

    Also, the greater Edmonton area has not bad representation around the Cabinet table, considering most of Edmonton went orange. Mr. Climenhaga, even your MLA made the cut!

    As for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, this appears to be a great pick by Mr. Kenney. As a practicing Catholic, I’m relieved to see our boards standing-up to individuals like Mr. Wells for making comments in public institutions, “that teaching students chastity is ’embarrassing and inappropriate in 2016′.” I send my kids to a Catholic school and that’s exactly what I want the school to teach. If I didn’t want that, then I’ll send them to the public system – just like everyone else has a choice in this province. Now whether kids, or adults practice this, that is their own choice, but Catholic education should be teaching the Catholic Catechism not relativism. The article you cite above also states that, “In her Sept. 16, 2016, letter, Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association president Adriana LaGrange said Wells articulated ‘negative and harmful views toward Catholic education in Alberta.’ That’s exactly what he did! Thank-you Ms. LaGrange for pointing this out. The letter had nothing to do with LGBTQ rights, instead it was just common bashing of the Catholic school system and the Catholics faith; but this is nothing new.

    • Farmer Dave

      May 2nd, 2019

      Mike, my children attended both the Catholic and Public systems and both systems are great however I believe we need one school system throughout Canada just like we need one driving licence training system throughout Canada (i.e. Humboldt bus crash). All schools should be given the authority to set aside one half day each week for religious purposes for those who need or want it, however all students should attend one public system. Do we want businesses or our military to segregate individuals because of religious beliefs? In Alberta there are several different schools/colleges being developed and religion will be a community issue in the future if we allow it to happen. Previous governments have caved to these religious demands for segregated teaching by allowing the money to follow the student and this will divide our Canadian community. One public school system is needed for all Canadians.

  4. Simon Renouf

    May 1st, 2019

    Not to mention the Finance Minister who thinks it’s OK to tell people not to practice Yoga because he thinks it’s the work of the devil. They remind me of the Harper Valley PTA.

    • David Climenhaga

      May 1st, 2019

      You are the second person to make that Harper Valley PTA reference today. Hmmm … DJC

  5. Jim Clarke

    May 1st, 2019

    You have two pictures captioned as Jason Nixon. I bet one of them is Dreeshen the Younger.

  6. John

    May 1st, 2019

    While I look at those stellar newbies to the UCP caucus I’m wondering to myself

    “What could go wrong?”


  7. tom in ontario

    May 1st, 2019

    Ministers of Health, Finance, Agriculture I get. Now Albertans have a groundbreaking Associate Minister for Red Tape Reduction. Will you weave your way through red tape in order to see him to eliminate red tape? Does his title appear on the office door? What’s red tape anyway?

  8. Public Servant

    May 1st, 2019

    A poacher for Parks minister and an extremist for Education minister. It’s going to be a long four years if Kenney can’t overcome his childish need to deliberately provoke those who didn’t vote for him.

  9. Kang

    May 1st, 2019

    So a fundamentalist Catholic has put another fundamentalist Catholic from Red Deer in charge of the public school system and sex education? Not very comforting when you consider she is probably the least offensive choice he had – at least we hope the Dear Leader was not intending to offend.

    But by being cowardly and not bringing real change, the NDP and the left in general has to take a lot of responsibility for the move into authoritarianism the election results gave us. On the environmental front the NDP built ring-roads for cars. If that is not sabotage it is certainly short sighted stupidity.

    When people are panicked into voting for burning witches to solve their problems, or joining a fantasy pipeline cargo cult, does that really make for a democratic mandate to do anything? And where is my obligation to comply with the dictates of such a state? Should I click my heels and say “I was only following orders” as we allow vulnerable children to be exposed to bigots and do our bit to burn the planet to the ground?

    Why even Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England agrees Alberta and the UCP petro-scam are in deep trouble:

  10. Sheldon

    May 1st, 2019

    Mr. Kenney has a heavily urban cabinet. Numerous rural MLA’s must be wondering why they are not on the front benches.
    (Also, the first photo is not Jason Nixon)

  11. David Climenhaga

    May 1st, 2019

    Thanks to everyone that noted I posted the incorrect caption under Grant Hunter’s photo. I have been on the road all day and only got to the computer just now. It has been corrected. DJC

  12. David

    May 2nd, 2019

    It seems the criteria for cabinet were loyalty to the dear leader, inexperience, youth in that order and possibly being a religous fundamentalist. Gee, what could possibly go wrong with such a group of people?

    For those Wildrose MLAs who were hopeful that experience might count for more – better luck next time, or more likely never. Perhaps they can have the faint hope if the inexperienced newbies trip up Kenney may turn to them. Quite likely, he will just instead turn to another inexperienced newbie who in a year or two will be a bit more experienced.

    I have a feeling we are about to see a series of bozzo happenings that will make the last year seem like a dress rehersal. While Kenney will be away off fighting with Ottawa, BC, environmentalists and most of the rest of the world concerned about climate change, the under supervised kids will play while the dear leader is away and it will not be pretty.

    • Farmer Dave

      May 2nd, 2019

      Just waiting for the UCP to split into the Wildrose and something……..camps.

  13. Martin d'Entremont

    May 2nd, 2019

    Shouldn’t the Minister for Red Tape Reduction’s first job be to fire himself?

    • David Climenhaga

      May 2nd, 2019

      Don’t get your hopes up. DJC

  14. Gail

    May 3rd, 2019

    Given how pathetic the NDP’s Agriculture Minister was Devin Dreeshen might actually be an improvement; at the very least he has a high bar to vault in the “hurting farmers” Olympics.

  15. Mike

    May 3rd, 2019

    Farmer Dave,

    I should have articulated my comment a bit more. A few items in response:

    1. Your suggestion is quite reasonable regarding one system. In my opinion, if religion and proper values are not taught and carried out at home, then you can have all the religious schools you want, but the teachings will fall on deaf ears. The home is where everything starts.

    2. At this time we do have a Catholic system. The Catholic system must teach Catholic values and catechism, and especially promote the virtues of Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness & Humility. So when an individual like Mr. Wells makes the comment in a public institution that, “teaching students chastity is embarrassing and inappropriate in 2016”, this needs to be dealt with immediately. Obviously Mr. Wells, and several others, do not agree with the teaching of the Catholic church (and that’s their right), but the superintendents took offense to his comments and appropriately responded (their right). Then we have people mocking the response of the superintendents for standing-up for moral virtues and the teachings of the school system they manage. Mr. Well’s comments had nothing to do with the inclusion of LGBTQ students, he just took an opportunity to bash the Catholics. The hypocrisy in this all of this is sickening, but like I said in my earlier comment, nothing new.

    3. Time will tell how Ms. LaGrange serves as Education Minister.


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