Premier Danielle Smith and her cabinet … mandate letters for everyone (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Cometh the hour, cometh the mandate letter. 

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Premier Danielle Smith, having won a seat in the Legislature Tuesday night, immediately turned to the vital task of looking busy and grownup. 

This will be hard to do given many of the nutty things she’s said up to now, for example suggesting she could come up with a plan to tear Alberta Health Services apart in 90 days, not to mention the fact that a considerable portion of her most loyal supporters expect her to keep saying that stuff. 

Nevertheless, yesterday she published six anodyne and performative mandate letters to her ministers of utilities, children’s services, culture, education, municipal affairs, and seniors and social services, an action clearly intended to give the impression that adults are in charge, even if we still really, really hate Ottawa. 

One hates to be an old cynic, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that each of these ministers has a mandate that extends well beyond the details of the formal mandate they have been given. After all, as University of Calgary political science professor Lisa Young wrote yesterday, “there isn’t even a whiff of extremism to be found.”

Consider the mandate give to Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange, for example, whose term as Jason Kenney’s minister of education was roiled with the bizarre 1950s grade school curriculum cooked up by some of the previous premier’s autodidactic pedagogical pals.

Utilities Minister Matt Jones (Photo: Twitter/Matt Jones).

Ms. LaGrange’s new mandate is mostly cheerfully harmless – “laser focus on job creation and strengthening Alberta’s economy,” yadda-yadda … (One wonders if Ms. Smith is focusing the same laser for that purpose that Mr. Kenney used to wield so ineffectively? It’s presumably gathering dust nowadays somewhere in the basement of the Legislature Building.) 

But as to what the heck the government proposes to do about that wretched and justifiably controversial curriculum? Nary a word. 

I suppose that means they’re sticking with it – after all, Ms. Smith’s private and charter school allies would be furious if she didn’t – but would be just as happy if the rest of us didn’t notice. Note that Ms. LaGrange’s marching orders do include continuing to support “parental choice” in education. 

Seniors and Social Service’s Minister Jeremy Nixon’s letter instructs him to be sure that income supports such as Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) and the seniors’ benefit are “adjusted for inflation on a go-forward basis.”

This is not a bad thing, although for some reason the letter forgets to mention that it was the UCP Government led by Ms. Smith’s predecessor that cut and de-indexed the same supports.

NDP Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

One imagines that former and present Finance Minister Travis Toews, the old austerity buff who is yet to receive his mandate letter, must have quietly ground his teeth to see that instruction in print. 

Utilities Minister Matt Jones (Matt Who?) is instructed to “Address the cost of utility payments for Albertans by ensuring regulated rates for electricity and natural gas are formulated to best serve Albertans.” (Regulation? Red tape? Surely not!)

No one mentioned that the UCP “promised utility relief last winter” and nothing much came of it. 

No one, that is, except Kathleen Ganley, the NDP’s energy critic, who noted, “After taking several months to get any support out the door, Albertans still don’t qualify for the natural gas rebate and hundreds of thousands of Albertans never received an electricity rebate due to the poorly designed program.”

Readers will get the picture. And if they don’t, they will have more opportunities to think about it, since Ms. Smith has 21 more letters to write. Presumably they will be released in small batches over the next few days in hopes of dominating the news cycle each day. 

The first six letters were accompanied by an upbeat news release reassuring Albertans that all will be well under Ms. Smith’s steady hand, and, in case that doesn’t persuade anyone, a downbeat release blaming Ottawa for anything bad that happens. 

Jason Kenney’s new look

Jason Kenney’s grizzled visage (Photo: All over Twitter).

There seems to be an emerging social custom that political leaders driven from power and exiled to a dreary circuit of lectures, think tanks, and corporate boards demonstrate that they have risen above such petty concerns by ceasing to shave. 

Jason Kenney may have been flirting with this for a while, even while still premier, occasionally appearing on the government’s Alberta Newsroom Flickr page of royalty-free photographs if not fully bearded, at least unfashionably unshaven. 

So it was probably only a matter of time before photos of Mr. Kenney sporting a full beard emerged, as they now have. It is not yet clear if Mr. Kenney will adopt a diet of honey and wild locusts, as befits a prophet wandering alone in the wilderness, to go with his grizzled and Lula-like whiskers.

Join the Conversation


  1. The UCP are doing whatever they can to try and stave off their impending demise in the next provincial election. They are trying to correct the things that were harmed from their own bad policies. This smacks of desperation.

    1. It’s almost always thus for Conservatives. Few months before election, either putting back what they have taken away and/or broken and sprinkle some goodies around….

  2. Justin T. (none dare speak his name) was sporting this look not too long ago before jettisoning it for a return of the clean-shaven brand. Politicians would be well advised to change their looks from time to time to give the electorate the unconscious impression that a new set of hands are guiding the reins of power.

    1. Trudeau. Trudeau Trudeau Trudeau! I’d like my statue to go up right in front of Gretzky’s please.

      lol Seriously though, I found JTs beard phase to be a fairly transparent attempt to be seen as more ‘serious’ and ‘adult,’ possibly trying to counteract all those times he described his own moral views as though they are the only possibly correct ones, as though he pitied everyone who was not evolved enough to see things in the “correct” way. To me, there was a period of time when he couldn’t make a speech without sounding like a first-year philosophy student with no life experience. YMMV of course.

  3. Yes, Kenney now seems to be going a bit for that Ted Cruz west Texas desert look, the fashionable look for the politically out of fashion. However, I doubt he will make quite as much effort to appear loyal to the new leader. Also, unlike for Cruz, at least the leader did not insult his family.

    I wonder if Kenney will retire and give Smith another awkward by election not to call. I suspect he will probably just stick around, while figuring out what to do next. Wandering the political wilderness may be made a bit easier with steady pay and just think of the money he is saving on not keeping up appearances.

    Smith’s mandate letters do seem a bit out of character, trying to avoid controversy and focused on the tasks at hand. I wonder how long their somewhat noble intentions will last before being overwhelmed by the personality of the new leader and events.

    1. My take is that Jason Kenney will stick around until May 2023. May 29, 2023 is election (we still hope). May 30, 2023 is his 55th birthday and that is when he can start collecting his federal pension.

  4. Let the fun begin. We’ll see how these mandates work in the next several months. The big questions are 1) what time frame is envisioned for the actions to be taken, and 2) what instructions did NOT get mentioned in the mandate letters? Time will tell….

  5. In the accompanying photo almost premier Brian Jean looks as though he’d love to hose down every one of his cabinet colleagues paying special mind to Danielle Smith. Since he operates a thriving car wash in Fort McMurray, he’s got the waterpower to do it.

  6. Perhaps Alberta-Lula has given over to that most festive of holidays, secular Christmas. I saw the display being set up at the local mall the other day, in anticipation of a jolly old bearded elf such as his nibs. Maybe?

  7. If it’s Danielle Straitjacket’s intention of looking like a grown-up and being busy, she’s decided to start by pulling down much of the mayhem that Jason Kenney caused.

    Ending the deindexing of AISH is a start and should prove to be a marginally popular move. Bill Clinton assured his political survival after his own midterm election disaster by co-opting the Republican’s congressional platform and making it his own. Of course, such a move save Clinton presidency, as well as making Newt Gingrich lose his mind, but it also paved the way for considerable damage in the US from years to come. Clinton’s own deregulation agenda of the financial and other industries set the stage for the rapid fall of the US, as well as his own war-friendly foreign policy. Indeed, Smith could very easily decide to govern (or at the least promise to) govern from the left, promising all kinds of supports for everything. Of course, once the election is over and the win is in the bag, she’ll pull the legs out on her bait and switch scheme.

    Are Albertans stupid enough to fall for that? Ontario did, until it seems they called DoFo’s bluff and are ready to smash the daylights out of his government. Alberta? Come on. They’re the stupidest people alive.

    1. Just Me, I’m convinced a number of people will vote for this sudden rush of generosity to their wallets—because many here in Oilberduh really are short of money. Any sign of “helping the people pay their bills” will be greeted with relief and at least some gratitude. (I suspect it’s the kind of gratitude felt by a mugger’s victim when he stops beating on you, but hey….)

      More troubling (or it SHOULD be!) is the promise of tax cuts for businesses, which must have Travis Toews, the maestro of government finances, fuming quietly in his office. Nobody seems to be commenting on the fact that Danielle is instructing her cabinet to increase spending AND cut taxes. Hmmm…can you say “deficit”? I wonder if Rachel Notley will.

      There’s still too much of the Free Alberta Fantasy to be announced (Tyler Shandro is supposed to do something or other about more rural non-RCMP cops, but no word on garnisheeing our Canada Pension Plan for UCP use) so I can’t guess how the next few months will play out.

      Then there’s the threat to destroy AHS from the top down. If carried through even a little, that will send more doctors and nurses running for, well, anywhere else. We can hope that, if rural hospitals are forced to close for lack of doctors, the locals will, at long last, decide the War on Doctors is a bad idea—and is hurting rural people.

        1. Not surprising, Riles. I guess there’s no municipality in Oilberduh that isn’t short of medical staff.

          And I see that, as usual, the catfight between the feds and provinces over health funding has ended in the usual stalemate. The provinces want a blank cheque, and the feds want guarantees the money will be spent on health care.

          We need to lean on the UCP (or kick their…well) till they agree with the results-based formula of the feds. Otherwise they’ll piss the money away on corporate welfare…again.

      1. If medical workers want to leave Alberta for more money the doctors of B.C. were given a $135K raise to help off set costs of running an office. Teachers start at around $100K now, with their new contract. We know here that Albertans like to go to the Interior and Shuswap like, well here is their chance to live in these places full time. If you want to golf year round, Vancovuer Island is where you want to be. Nice hospital in Nanaimo and a new one in the Comox Valleu. O.K. thats it for my ad. Want to work in a small community hospital–vacancies abound further up Island.

        1. Yes, I read that BC had taken the first step to improving doctors’ pay. You’ll likely get most of the professional refugees fleeing Oilberduh when Queen Dannie begins her War on AHS. (She’s extending the War on Doctors started by Jason Kenney.)

          Well, at least it’s a shorter trip than Ontario–which is also fishing for doctors in Oilberduh’s troubled waters.

  8. 24 ….so who is missing?? playing hooky already ? someone staying back to answer the phones ? (tongue in cheek)

      1. 27 ministers– and I just remembered that Chrystia said she was meeting with Travis Toews, I assume he took someone else with him….

        Should be interesting what the take on those meetings will be.

  9. Jason Kenney’s mom really ought to tell him his beard makes him look like Ted Cruz.

    Also, she ought to put something in his closet besides blue suits.

    1. Neil
      So since he was meeting up with his “old boss ” in Calgary (@ an JNF do) maybe the suit color was intentional….job hunting??
      I “assume” he was there in his MLA capacity .. though, just what are his “responsibilities ” these days?

    2. Beards? Closets? What are you suggesting?

      Maybe Jason could finally be free to be himself (and I would applaud him for doing so).

    3. Aww, Neil, don’t diss on Jason’s wardrobe like that. Everybody knows the Cons require mens’ suits to be Tory Blue. You wouldn’t expect Jason to repaint his famous Torymobile, would you?

  10. Perhaps Delusional Danni will do a Christy Clark now, and adopt all the Alberta NDP policy book, like Christy did in the dying days of the BC Liberal government borrowing BC NDP policy holus bolus.

    1. But that would never extend to masks and vaccines (which are again becoming important). And that was the issue that sank Kenny. NDP could use as a wedge.

  11. We are in luck.

    Tyler Shandro, as Justice Minister has two files. One to replace the RCMP with a Provincial police force. The second to get a sovereignty act constructed.

    Perfect choice. He is such a screw up that there is a good chance that both will not get far and he will illicit a great deal of negative press in the process.

  12. Before you shove your foot in your mouth on this Alberta police force issue, please remember that replacing the RCMP has been a PROGRESSIVE goal for DECADES. This is something the province needs, and if you want to sabotage it, please do so from a “we don’t trust cons to do this” instead of just siding with the “thin blue line”. The RCMP are dangerous, and their conduct a disgrace to Canada. Here’s a link to the matter in a left leaning publication (I’m sure you’ve already read the article as it is brilliantly written).

    1. It would be incredibly simple for the province to just work with the RCMP and have Alberta FUND more officers in rural areas.

      This is more of a funding issue than a policing issue.

      1. Brett: Well it is and it isn’t, in my opinion. The lack of police funding is certainly a contributing factor to rural crime in Alberta, and to slow response times for other rural emergencies. But the effort to replace the RCMP with a politicized Alberta force that can be used as a political police agency by the government of Alberta has nothing to do with rural crime (which is both exaggerated and misrepresented for political purposes by Conservatives) and everything to do with undermining the Liberals in Ottawa, attacking national institutions to balkanize the country and weaken national institutions, entrench the corporate capture of Canadian governments, Americanize Canadian institutions, and if possible create the conditions for constitutional change that would strengthen corporate rights and weaken human rights in Canada. It is inspired by the sovereignist Firewall Manifesto authored by Stephen Harper and his fellow travellers before he was prime minister, as are other changes that will continue to be pushed by the Smith Government, such as the seizure of our CPP pensions. Returning to rural crime, the widely held belief in rural Alberta that it originates with urban gangs who drive to the country to steal quarter-million-dollar combine harvesters is maliciously generated fake news, and racist to boot. Funny how you never see a stolen combine harvester being driven through the streets of Edmonton or Calgary. Rural crime is generated by rural drug use and rural living conditions and lack of public services in low-population areas. While the good folk who believe this nonsense may not like it, it is mostly committed by their neighbours. DJC

        1. I wonder who funded the many, brand new $250,000 John Deere farm machines that terrorised Edmontonians?

          1. Cool: if I was to start believing in coincidences, or conspiracy theories, I would be checking out Buhler Ind/ Saskatchewan/sanctions…and also the “farms” controlled by US interests …..but hey, I grew up with Elvis, “Suspicious mind ” used to be a favorite…now I’m just cynical…..Cheers!

    2. AON, I don’t recall ever hearing that Albertans want the RCMP to go away, until the infamous “Firewall letter” was published. That whole wish list was dismissed as BS by right-wing, concrete-tower intellectuals in the Calgary University (U of C’s budget has never stretched to ivory sheathing). The whole teapot tempest subsided when Ralph Klein tossed the letter in the trash.

      After that, we heard nothing about replacing the RC’s. Adding to them, yes, often. Anybody who calls the cops wants ‘em here RIGHT NOW. More cops in more cars would be a good thing, but it’s expensive and nobody wants to pay for it. Correction: they all want somebody else to pay for it.

      After George Floyd was killed by a US cop (a macabre twist on “taking a knee”) we heard a lot about “defunding the police,” mostly from the US. Given how their cops have been “militarized” with armoured personnel carriers and heavy weapons, that makes considerable sense. In Canada, defunding OUGHT to mean increasing funds and staffing for social services (e.g. mental health support). Then the cops wouldn’t have to play psychiatrist when somebody gets suicidal or has a nervous breakdown. But we still heard nothing serious about kicking the RCMP out of Alberta.

      The ”thin blue line” movement is more imported American dystopian culture. It seems American cops have developed an “us-vs.-the world” attitude. It must be easy to feel that way when you have to assume every other guy on the street is armed and might want to kill you. But it’s a terrible comment on the state of American society. It’d be tragic to see it spread in Canada (more than it has already). Have you ever seen somebody try to pick a fight—and get one, just because he wants it? Sometimes “I’m a victim, too” becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. NOT something we want here in Canada!

      No, the “punt the RCMP” movement is strictly a far-right project. The idea that our own cops; our own pension plan; our own this, that & the other would get us ready for “sovereignty” is at best deluded. At worst, it’s a cynical long-range plan to convert us into a bowdlerized, ersatz American state. Not gonna happen, buddy. Three quarters of Albertans know we’d be worse off outside of Canada. The rest listen to each other too much.

    3. Apropos of nothing: The R.C.M.P aren’t perfect, by any means. In fact, no police force is. However, what makes people think that a provincial police force will be any better? If there are bad apples in a provincial police force, then who would they get replaced with, if there is outrage over their conduct? Rural municipal leaders in Alberta have made it clear that they don’t want the R.C.M.P replaced with a provincial police force. These are conservative supporters, for the most part. They are looking at different issues, including the cost factor, which they peg at a minimum of $1 billion.

  13. Replacing the police with additional police with less oversight has never and will never be a progressive plank, let alone for DECADES.

    Are the RCMP a horrible, colonial police force with many skeletons in their closet ? Absolutely, but cmon man, I live in Edmonton, and there are no comparisons between the RCMP and the NOTORIOUSLY corrupt EPS, Calgary’s city police is even worse and there is no reason a “provincial” police force created as a political project by the most reactionary folks in the country would be any different.

  14. For years city of Edmonton police officers have indicated that they fully support the RCMP for having international connections to help them solve crimes. In fact they require their help on a regular basis I was told. Of course it’s a well know fact that these fake conservatives created the sheriffs department to help fight criminals so why aren’t they being increased instead of kicking out the RCMP? I think they are just trying to get even for them investigating their party, just like their pal Pierre Poilievre has promised to destroy the CBC for daring to criticize his brand of stupidity. Like the former MLAs from the Lougheed era taught me Reformers don’t create jobs they destroy them.

    1. Alan K. Spiller: If the UCP replaces the R.C.M.P with their own provincial police force, where would the R.C.M.P officers in Alberta be relocating to? They have homes here, and families. My nephew is a R.C.M.P officer, with many years of service. I have other relatives who were R.C.M.P officers too. I don’t think they would support this type of move by the UCP either. It’s true that the R.C.M.P has been investigating the UCP, in particular, their last leadership race. Eliminate them, and no investigation. It’s also the case of the UCP wanting to create a police state, where nobody dares to question the UCP’s motives.

  15. re: J K ….so the new look is because it’s the start of the disguise……I think he might need it if people start asking the right questions…

    On his Twitter account, from June 29th/ 2022

    One of the world’s largest crypto companies is launching in Calgary

    Alberta is open for business!
    Crypto company FTX exchange,aquires Bitvo, plans to officially launch in Canada.

    with a picture of Sam Bankman-Fried …
    the irony of the name…??

    and this coming on the heels of the
    Link Global ,a bitcoin mining power plant secretly setting up shop ,in Sturgeon County.

    **Western Standard**– April 21/2022…..a Nevada company is proposing to operate ” up to one million “bitcoin mining machines relocated from China..

    Just an observation, IMO ,but that’s just from following all the negative environmental impacts of the “mining” , the amount of electricity that is used, though Link said its using natural gas, but since Klein privatized, accountability, meh !! so about those electricity bills that were supposed to be lowered….
    and yes my ears are burning, ’cause my sister in Edmonton is not happy about this latest news, she was already worried about her Alberta pension, so I’m going to get an earful tomorrow, but now maybe she’ll pay attention. Not that she, would ever buy crypto, but repercussions are like that rock thrown into the water, ripples spread….and sooner or later they hit the shore.

    and small sidebar: FWIW, alittle noise ,from Ben H ( hut 8)…

    My sincere condolences for anyone affected.!!

    1. DJC, I feel like I’m in over my head with the crypto ‘rap, it always seemed like a ponze scheme, & more so than ever these days..
      and with limits to information, trying to figure out the crumb trails….anyway

      Canadian Blockchain Consortium,
      Oct 19-20 , has on its list…

      Ben Harper , financial associate, Luxor technologies and

      Doug Sweitzer, senior advisor -technology,media, telecommunications /Deloitte….
      ( Doug’ not a career politician)…..along with a number of others..

      I guess my questions would be

      1. conflicts of interest??? the people of Alberta know about the crypto push from within the government, not even counting JK’s enthusiasm many people are aware of the act that was put in place to make it easier for the crypto companies to come in and set up many are there and how much power are they using
      ( * Quebec/ limits & regulations,but easier in Alberta…..hmmm)

      with all the things going on behind the scenes ,correction, since Post media has bought out all the independent papers,( the bias is so blatant it’s jarring,) we used to have investgative reporters that would be all over this, but now if you’re getting just the local news aka Global Edmonton, I know more of what’s going on than my sister, who lives there. So do people know, do they care ?or are they just indifferent until/unless it affects them personally.
      Or is it baffle them with b.s., woo hoo, we’re going to create 100 jobs, and the heck with the environmental impact, and if some young “Crypto King ” takes your money and flies ( private jet of course) well you’re on your own, we were telling the world, Alberta is open for business…..front door entrance, backdoor finances…..
      and what and how much has happened that we don’t know about, all that “missing “, re:allocated funds , and the foxes are guarding the chicken coup. What ever happened to oversight, I remember thinking years ago that the Tax payers federation, was actually looking out for us, let me see, NOT, not the general public . When the finance minister signs off on a $10 million severance pkg for the CEO of Aimco , it really makes you wonder what the other goodies were available to the crypto mining companies??? ” Link– we didn’t know we were doing anything wrong” , I wonder why ?

      Just another day in paradise….

        1. DJC, Thank You!!!!! You are way more eloquent than I am, which is why I enjoy your articles so much. … pen to paper is easy for me, “readers digest version, not so much…

          so what is the deal with Ben & Doug ?? did Danielle oust JK’s “advisor ” , and if so does Daddy know?

          Sidebar: the irony of the AGM meeting being held at the Fantasy land , was not lost on me, worth a couple of giggles…how apropos.

  16. The letters smith sent out sound a lot like what Trudeau did at one time, sending letters to his Cabinet Ministers out lining his expectations.

    Smith’s letters may come back to haunt her. They’ll look good in ads during an election out lining what she and hers didn’t accomplish.

    The four western provinces are simply too small to have their own police forces. They could become simply a method for the government of the day to make life miserable for those who oppose them. the RCMP isn’t a great police force for large cities, but in rural areas it works and its less expensive. What Alberta may need is simply more officers and given just about all occupations are short staffed in this country, getting more maybe a problem.

    stealing $250K machines in rural areas????? Put them in the barn at night and lock them. They are a tad difficult to move around, so given there isn’t a hot list for them or others buying them I do have my doubts about them being stolen so frequently. Stealing cars is so much easier. If they’re being stolen so frequently you’d think people would put trackers on them. Kids steal cars to go joy riding, but stealing a conbine to go joy riding, not so much

    Smith isn’t the best choice for Premier in Alberta, so good luck.

    1. e.a.f., the idea of paying the RCMP more for extra officers makes too much sense for the UCP, who are now a front for Take Back Alberta. (The RCMP would have to recruit and train more staff, but that’s faster and cheaper than starting from zero.)

      I don’t know about rural crime, but I suspect that 1) DJC, our host, is probably right about people blaming “the Other Guys” rather than the neighbours. See his reply to Brett under Apropos of nothing’s post. Whether they’re stealing farm implements, just parts, or whatever they can grab is, to me, an open question.

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