On May 24, 2015 Rachel Notley was sworn in as Alberta’s 17th Premier and introduced her cabinet. With the following 11 Ministers, Premier Notley’s cabinet was one of the leanest – and had the fewest number of incumbents - in recent history:
- Joe Ceci - Finance/Treasury Board president
- Sarah Hoffman - Health/Seniors.
- Kathleen Ganley - Justice/Aboriginal Affairs
- David Eggen - Education/Culture and Tourism
- Margaret McCuaig-Boyd - Energy
- Shannon Phillips - Environment and Parks/Status of Women
- Brian Mason - Infrastructure/Transportation
- Deron Bilous - Municipal Affairs, Service Alberta
- Lori Sigurdson - Innovation and Advanced Education/Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour
- Rachel Notley -- International and Intergovernmental Affairs
- Oneil Carlier - Agriculture/Forestry
- Irfan Sabir - Human Services
Of particular interest to the oil and gas sector will be Minister McCuaig-Boyd. The energy portfolio – one of the Province’s most important ministries - has been entrusted to a virtual unknown in Alberta’s oil patch. A former teacher and school administrator, prior to her election Ms. McCuaig-Boyd was education consultant and vice-president of the Fairview Campus of Grande Prairie Regional College. She intends to start meeting energy industry executives with a message that "they don't have to worry."
Maybe so, but the new Energy Minister will be responsible for the highly sensitive royalty review promised by Premier Notley. Corporate Calgary will be very interested in getting to know Ms. McCuaig-Boyd - and her intentions for the pace and scope of a review which the new Premier has said will come within her initial term of office. One of the first orders of business on the royalties file will be to select members of the Resource Owners Rights Commission.
Another rookie in a high profile portfolio is Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. First-time MLA Minister Phillips was previously a journalist, economic analysis and advisor to the Alberta Federation of Labour on pipelines. Ms. Phillips’ portfolio will almost certainly involve putting the NDP’s stamp on Alberta’s climate change policy – and fast.
The Alberta Specified Gas Emitters Regulation expires on June 30, 2015, a deadline widely expected to be extended by the new government. A federal-provincial meeting on emissions this summer and international conference in Paris at the end of 2015 are further climate change milestones. Choosing a methodology to address carbon – models include cap and trade, a B.C.-style carbon tax or continuation of the existing technology fund – will be an important policy question for the Premier and her Environment Minister. Other key aspects of the NDP’s environmental platform include phasing out coal-fired electricity generation, strengthening environmental standards and the development of energy efficiency programs.
Finally, Finance Minister Joe Ceci will have a critical role in implementing the NDP government’s energy policy. Minister Ceci, a social worker and long-time Calgary city councillor is another newcomer to provincial politics given a senior role. He will have several immediate tasks. Not least is introducing an interim supply budget in a June sitting of the legislature to keep the provincial government operating before bringing in a full budget in the fall. It is anticipated that a corporate tax rate increase from 10% to 12% will be levied in the first year of Premier Notley’s mandate.
The swearing in of Premier Notley and her cabinet ushers in a new era in Alberta politics. Working with different players and navigating the shoals of emerging issues will therefore be critical for anyone doing business in Alberta. A clear indicator of the new government’s direction will be the June 15, 2015 Throne Speech.