Alberta Politics
Premier Jason Kenney leads some of his new cabinet ministers down the garden path (literally) at Government House yesterday – visible from left to right, Mr. Kenney, Jason Luan, Ron Orr, Muhammad Yaseen and Rajan Sawhney (Photo: Chris Schwarz, Government of Alberta).

Jason Kenney shuffles his cabinet – and criticizing the boss, or John A. Macdonald, will not be tolerated!

Posted on July 09, 2021, 1:50 am
9 mins

Premier Jason Kenney’s cabinet shuffle yesterday had very little to do with supporting Alberta’s economic recovery and renewal, despite what the government would have you believe.

This is not to say the claim in the official press release that “Alberta’s government is focused on Alberta’s Recovery Plan, a plan to build, diversify the economy and create good jobs” is not part of the narrative the United Conservative Party will be working hard to build right through to the next provincial general election in 2023, or before.

Former deputy UCP leader Leela Aheer, who we won’t be hearing from very much anymore (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But two key messages of Mr. Kenney’s newly bloated 26-member cabinet are directed back to the members of the premier’s fractious caucus: misbehave and you will be punished; support the team and good things may come your way.

The third asks Calgary voters to please stop thinking about electing New Democrats. 

First and most important, the demotion of Leela Aheer to the backbenches sends a clear message to anyone in the UCP Caucus who cannot abide Premier Kenney’s constant gaslighting and entitled behaviour. 

Ms. Aheer, who until yesterday was minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, famously dared to criticize Premier Kenney’s defiance of COVID-19 restrictions during his boozy Sky Palace patio party last month, telling constituents on her personal Facebook account on June 5 that “our leadership should sincerely apologize.” 

She also had the temerity to speak the truth about the legacy of John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister and principal architect of the residential school system, another mortal political sin as long as Mr. Kenney is premier. 

Ms. Aheer is now minister of bupkes. Message sent. 

Rajan Sawhney, who until yesterday was minister of community services, also criticized the premier’s rooftop dinner the same day, but her comments were milder and she had the good sense to make most of them in Punjabi on a Calgary ethnic radio station. 

Alberta Culture Commissar Ron Orr (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Accordingly, Ms. Sawhney has been partly forgiven and moved to Transportation, a portfolio where she will not have the chance to use her empathetic qualities to actually help Albertans with disabilities. From the premier’s perspective, that means she can do less harm. 

The optics for the premier would have been worse if he’d canned both female cabinet ministers who criticized him, which likely explains Ms. Sawhney’s reprieve. Don’t expect her to remain in cabinet if Mr. Kenney has another pre-election shuffle, though. 

Ms. Sawhney will be replaced in her old portfolio by Jason Luan, who as associate minister of mental health and addictions was tasked by the premier with dismantling Alberta’s opioid harm-reduction programs. This change cannot be taken as good news by severely disabled Albertans who rely on government support to keep body and soul together. 

As for Ms. Aheer’s former jobs, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr was named minister of culture. 

The new UCP culture commissar is best known for publicly musing that legalization of marijuana could lead to a Communist revolution, seeing as one of those happened in China where folks used to smoke opium. He also recently proclaimed to his dubious former Wildrose colleagues that Mr. Kenney “is the leader God raised up for these times.” So, regardless of what you think about his views on the Devil’s lettuce, you can see why the premier likes him.

Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Mr. Kenney said he thought a rural MLA like Mr. Orr is ideally placed to ride herd on the government’s Alberta Identity Strategy, that is, identity politics, Alberta style. 

Perhaps during his many years in Ottawa, Mr. Kenney didn’t notice that nowadays well over 80 per cent of Albertans live in urban areas, making this one of the most urbanized provinces in the country. Arguably, though, Mr. Orr’s appointment is an indicator of just how seriously Premier Kenney takes Alberta’s cultural industries. 

“We’re trying to attract people here, not drive them away,” said Opposition Leader Rachel Notley of Mr. Orr’s appointment. 

The other two former Aheer portfolios went to Calgary North MLA Muhammad Yaseen, the new associate minister of immigration and multiculturalism, and Calgary-Glenmore MLA Whitley Issik, a former female football player, who inherited the status of women portfolio. 

In the cabinet org chart, this puts Ms. Issik under the supervision of Mr. Orr, who presumably knows almost as much about what women voters want as he does about culture. 

Tanya Fir, MLA for Calgary-Peigan, replaces low-wattage Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, who will return to the benign non-personhood of the UCP back benches. 

The latest member of the Horner Clan, Nate, to be called to cabinet (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Ms. Fir’s mid-pandemic Vegas vacation weeks after appearing with the premier in a video earnestly advising Albertans to holiday at home has obviously been forgiven now that COVID-19 has officially been declared vanquished and Albertans are enjoying the Best Summer Ever ™.

Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner, a member of the UCP’s COVID Skeptic Caucus, was appointed Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development. This achieves the partial restoration to cabinet, albeit only to associate status for now, of a member of Alberta’s famous Horner political clan. 

Calgary-West MLA Mike Ellis, the UCP Caucus’s former whip, ascends to the heady heights of associate minister of Mental Health and Addictions, where the ex-cop from Calgary can continue Mr. Luan’s work of dismantling the one of the few approaches to addictions proven effective at saving lives. 

Senior Cabinet players like Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange, and Environment Minister Jason Nixon, however, will remain right where they are as Premier Kenney doubles down on his attacks on health care, education, parks and the environment. Energy Minister Sonya Savage will stay on the job as well as Alberta’s guardian of fossil fuel profits. So, no change where it’s needed. 

There will be no cabinet ministers from south of Calgary, which must be a first in Alberta political history and demonstrates Mr. Kenney’s confidence he can hold the rural south, come what may.

On the other hand, six of the eight newly assigned ministers represent Calgary ridings that would probably vote NDP if a provincial election were held tomorrow – so needs must!

28 Comments to: Jason Kenney shuffles his cabinet – and criticizing the boss, or John A. Macdonald, will not be tolerated!

  1. Abs

    July 9th, 2021

    Mr. Orr, is it the Old Testament God, or the New Testament God that did this to Alberta?

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      July 9th, 2021

      Must be the Old Testament God. I find it hard to believe the Father of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” (from a Victorian-era children’s song) could hate Albertans that much.

      Reply
    • pogo

      July 9th, 2021

      All shall be smitten! If you are contrary? As the horses you shall be tamed! Thus is our Premier. A Horse master. Gulp!

      Reply
      • pogo

        July 9th, 2021

        I remember when real family farms were not corporate considerations. That time is long gone. Now we have different things to worry about. Oh boy! Whoa! Do we we ever change our affiliation? https://youtu.be/xyUKyJVTgPg

        Reply
    • Athabascan

      July 11th, 2021

      Hey ABS,

      God? God has nothing to do with it. It’s all collective karma. It’s simple cause and consequence. Vote Kenney and suffer.

      Next time an ethical, educated, competent and compassionate woman runs the province well, please don’t kick her out and vote for a closeted sociopath.

      It’s pretty simple.

      Reply
  2. Dave

    July 9th, 2021

    Most politicians use a cabinet shuffle to get rid, of or at least reasign, the more problematic ministers and perhaps add or promote a few solid performers. Kenney seems to have taken a different approach – keep the high profile under performing loyalists in place and only get rid of those possibly not loyal enough.

    It seems to be an exercise in denial of, rather than dealing head on with, his political and management problems. Perhaps our first clue about Kenney’s political style should have been how quickly leadership rival Brian Jean quickly disappeared from the scene.

    Better politicians try to expand the tent by bringing in and winning over leadership rivals. Kenney does not seem to have much time for anyone who has slightly different views than him, or who might challenge him in any way.

    I don’t know how much effort was expended on this shuffle, but based on the results it probably would have been just as good if they hadn’t bothered and left things as they were before.

    Reply
    • Firth of Fifth

      July 9th, 2021

      I’ll take it a step further and say this “shuffle” is just a massive f-you to any and all critics of Premier Randy Bobandy’s government, especially to those that called for the removal of the Big Bads like Toews, Shandro, Lagrange and Savage. This is literally him saying to Albertans that he doesn’t give a toss what anyone thinks, he’s the boss and he’ll do whatever the hell he wants. As long as those ministers continue to kiss the ring they are pretty much guaranteed plum positions at the highest of troughs.

      Reply
  3. tom

    July 9th, 2021

    You can’t go far wrong calling Jason Kenney God’s anointed.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      July 11th, 2021

      Oh, yeah? Which God is that?

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    July 9th, 2021

    Nothing like a bloated cabinet, as a way of making it look like the UCP are creating jobs. This hearkens back to what the Alberta PCs did in the 1990s, and onwards. With pretend conservatives running the show, and it is a gong show with the UCP, don’t expect any positive outcomes for Alberta.

    Reply
  5. tom in ontario

    July 9th, 2021

    Conspicuous by its absence is any reference to the newly appointed Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction. Being from Ontario my familiarity with such an Alberta cabinet portfolio is limited.
    Was there so much red tape to reduce that Premier Kenney saw the need to provide an overworked Minister of Red Tape Reduction with an Associate Minister? Or was the red tape so wily and hard to find that an Associate Minister was named to assist the frustrated Minister in tracking it down?

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      July 11th, 2021

      “Red tape” is UCPekinese for “Essential Services” which, since Alberta is still obliged to provide some of them by the terms of its membership in the Canadian federation, must be altogether too much “red tape” for a single UCP minister to handle, reducing it being tantamount to the complicated task of organizing a separate state. You know: with so many doctors, nurses, and teachers now leaving the province because of UCP policy, UCP policy must be to reduce the number of essential services—like doctors, nurses, and teachers—accordingly. Strong, if circular, fiscal reasoning.

      Reply
  6. jimmy

    July 9th, 2021

    The picture says it all. They’ll follow where he leads.

    Reply
  7. Just Me

    July 9th, 2021

    At this point, it’s becoming clear that the UCP cabinet will only get larger so long as the caucus revolts continue. This all about suppressing criticism of the leader, rewarding loyalty, and using the public purse to keep the partisans happy.

    This isn’t a government; it’s a junior high school.

    The well warranted reviews and re-reviews of Kenney’s political record are highly instructive concerning his behavior. For myself, I thought of the life and career of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his legacy. The junior senator from Wisconsin remains a complicated blight on the US body politic, in the sense his legacy proves to many a politico that bad behavior doesn’t necessarily have to be a career impairment. If anything, it may serve as a reliable stepladder to longevity.

    McCarthy began his public life with a stellar and illustrious wartime record. Well, he served as a Marine Corps. intelligence officer for a bomber squadron. He did participate in twelve “safe” combat missions as a gunner-observer. During these missions, McCarthy was allowed to fire the machines as much as he wanted, which earned him the moniker “Tailgunner Joe”. While this may have served as some kind of heroic badge of honor for McCarthy, it was eventually revealed that his claims of being involved in heroic air combat were largely fraudulent, along with pretty much every other claim he made throughout his political career. His relentless hunt for communist infiltrators in every sphere of American life proved to be no more than a fanciful witch hunt and an utter embarrassment for the Washington establishment. McCarthy succumbed to acute Hepatitis, which was widely believed to have been the result of his excessive drinking.

    The parallels between the careers of McCarthy and Jason Kenney are strikingly similar. The excessive gaslighting, the fraud, embellishments, and obfuscation just confirms that Kenney is a McCarthy-esque doppelgänger.

    All that’s needed now is the Hepatitis diagnosis, which maybe assured thanks to those many evenings holed up at the Sky Palace with a massive reserve of cough syrup.

    Reply
    • Another Dave

      July 9th, 2021

      Interesting comparison. At least Senator McCarthy had some experience outside of government as a lawyer. Jason Kenney is more of hack who is the product of conservative think tanks and lobby groups. Having lived in this bubble his whole career, he has developed somewhat of a skewed view of the world leaving him utterly incapable of not only solving complex issues but even understanding the problems. To the average Albertan he comes across as high handed and unrelatable. Ralph Klein on the other hand was very relatable but completely devoid of any kind of vision. For this reason, I don’t expect Kenney’s popularity to improve very much over time. The question is how much will he be able to break before he goes back to being a think tank hack.

      Reply
      • Just Me

        July 10th, 2021

        Couple that with being middle-aged and virginal, there can be little doubt that Kenney’s worldview is not only heavily skewed towards being extremely pious, but he is determined to defend this view even if it completely blows up in his face.

        Kenney has already set the benchmark for career advancement: absolute obedience and fealty to the leader’s will be handsomely rewarded; incompetence and other failures will be ignored; corruption is the business of his government, and speaking the truth is not an option.

        He has set the groundwork for his manufactured reality. As there are already too many components of the real world crashing down on his head already, so I suspect the doubling down on the gaslighting will be even more intense. As well, I suspect that the crazy will be ramped up as will the revelations about his personal foibles.

        Kenney will be constantly watching is back and his security detail will be larger and ever present.

        Reply
  8. jimmy

    July 9th, 2021

    Goodness me. I just learned that the annual salary of an MLA is $121,000 and that of a cabinet member is $181,000. Mr. Orr’s culture portfolio may lead to handsome rewards should he succeed in establishing rodeo as “Alberta’s official sport”. Well hot diggity dog. It looks like I’ll have to get a new hat. Granny and Uncle Jed sure will be proud of me.

    Reply
  9. pogo

    July 9th, 2021

    So, after long months and years of Premier “no clue” “never had a real job” “couldn’t run a pop stand in a desert” “never saw a public employee who didn’t want to make him urinate”? Here we are. What to do? I know. Do you?

    Reply
  10. pogo

    July 9th, 2021

    What to do? Well, there are many options. All but two lead nowhere. Support this mess or rise up. Are you willing? Or are you unable? Those are the simple questions to answer. If not for you? Then answer for your children. https://youtu.be/rjzTf9BVLR4?t=7

    Reply
  11. Abs

    July 9th, 2021

    I can see it now, the sub-ministry of the Status of Women, working hard with the Minister of Culture to “affirm Alberta’s cultural, economic and political uniqueness in law and government policy.”

    https://youtu.be/buWY6GOKm28

    God’s plan in action.

    Reply
  12. Brett

    July 9th, 2021

    My spouse has always been a Conservative/UCP supporter.

    It waned a little with the Redford regime.

    Now…she cannot even stand to see Kenney on TV or listen to his voice. She refers to him as that smarmy so and so.

    I have to wonder if she is an exception.

    Reply
  13. Just Me

    July 9th, 2021

    Since the revolts within the UPC caucus, as well as their riding associations, is unlikely to end, Premier Crying & Screaming Midget may have to consider adding more loyalists to the cabinet ranks.

    It’s entirely possible that Kenney may run out of portfolio names for the cabinet positions; therefore, in the interest of getting a place setting at the next Sky-Palace shindig, I’d like to present these suggestions for any incoming cabinet members portfolios …

    Minister(s) of …

    The following will be assistant ministers for the Minister of Agriculture
    Grains; Peas & Carrots; Corn; Root Vegetables; Canola; Lawns; Crab Grass; and Prairie Flowers.

    The following will be assistant ministers for the Minister of Education
    Creationism; Anti-Darwinism; ‘readin,’ ritein, &’ rithmatik; Chalk Drawings.

    The brand new ministry to be called the Ministry of Religious Freedoms. The following will be assistant ministers to the Minister of Religious Freedoms
    Ten Commandments; the Heathens; Status of Women and Keeping em Barefoot and Pregnant.

    And finally, the brand new Minister of Internal Security and Enforcement
    The following will be the assistant ministers to the Minister of Internal Security and Enforcement
    Provincial Police; Anti-communism and all other -isms; Navy; Army; Air Force; and Space Force.

    Reply
    • Just Me

      July 10th, 2021

      This is just the beginning.

      I suspect a similar strategy will be applied in the interest of “de-risking” the O & G industry. It also goes by another name: nationalization.

      Alberta will buy up the assets, always with the details protected, so the premiums paid cannot be discovered.

      Kenney’s younger self likely told his older self to do this and get out of town fast.

      Reply
  14. Alan K. Spiller

    July 10th, 2021

    To Tom in Ontario cutting red tape to these reformers literally means letting their friends get away with whatever they want. Those of us remember the reduction of red tape that the Ralph Klein government created.
    It allowed for the elimination of funding for a fire break around Fort MacMurray which destroyed the city. It allowed the oil industry to create the orphan wells mess and got three condo developments declared unsafe for human occupation in Fort MacMurray because proper inspections were waived during construction.

    Donating to their party will give you a free ride to do anything. The don’t give a damn about who gets hurt, like the seniors who can’t sell their farmland and enjoy retirement like the rest of us because of the abandoned oil wells on their land or the Albertans who lost their lives because of the horrific storage of health care workers Klein created. One was almost my father.

    Now Kenney is promising to create the same situation. With Klein we lost 14,783 Heath care workers and Kenney is talking 11,000 and we know the mishandling of covid in this province cost people their lives, but they don’t care.

    Yet many of our fellow seniors will still tell you Klein was their hero, but can’t give you a list of all the wonderful things he did for us when you ask them, and a lot of the same ones have bought into the Jason Kenney lies, and are hurling their sarcastic comments at those of us who don’t share their level of stupidity.

    They support anyone who attaches the word conservative to their name and believe every lie he feeds them.if there were a federal election tomorrow they would help reformer Erin O’Toole get elected even though he is promising , with his reform party stupidity , to cut $36 billion off provincial health care funding to try to force Canadians into a privatized health care system, while his buddy Jason Kenney continues to give away hundreds of billions in oil royalties and tax breaks that could easily pay for a proper public health care system. He is also planning to scrap the CBC and doesn’t care that there are still a lot of Canadians who rely on it. Eliminating jobs is no concern of theirs.
    My true conservative friends and I aren’t surprised O’Toole’s popularity is falling. We don’t like Trudeau but trust him a lot more than we do these damn reformers. Oilmen point out Trudeau has done a lot more for our oil industry than Harper ever did and he has.

    Reply
  15. e.a.f.

    July 10th, 2021

    Isn’t there a line about shuffling the cabinet is something like shuffling the chairs on the Titanic?

    Reading the article gave me a good laugh. Now that the MLAs have seen the error of their ways for criticising some may decide they have nothing to loose by continuing with their errant ways. Some may get tired of Jason’s ways and leave. Of course those improved salaries might keep some of them quiet. Let see what happens when Jason gets into a real war with the nurses and they start leaving the province. They might like B.C.

    Who knows perhaps Jason speaks directly to his “god”.

    Reply
  16. Just Me

    July 11th, 2021

    I noticed that all the new men in the cabinet are dressed like Premier Crying & Screaming Midget.

    Tyrant’s Playbook

    Conformity.

    Create a culture of conformity, through a uniform, to give the followers a sense of unity, loyalty, and belonging.

    This one of the unnoticed methods of mindset enforcement in a cult of personality.

    Reply

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