EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford trimmed her cabinet Tuesday, rewarding some veterans and promoting a controversial rookie to the critical post of energy minister.
Ken Hughes, a first-time legislature member from Calgary, replaces defeated cabinet minister Ted Morton as the point man for the province's wellspring oil and gas industry.
Veteran cabinet minister Doug Horner, the current Treasury Board president, becomes the government's top money man by adding Finance to his portfolio.
Solicitor General Jonathan Denis is now also attorney general and justice minister.
The cabinet has 19 members, including Redford, which is two less than the pre-election group.
"We are a government that I think has been forged through a pretty tough election," Redford told reporters after her cabinet was sworn in by Lt.-Gov. Don Ethell in a ceremony at Government House.
"And (we) have a very strong commitment to the direction that we as Progressive Conservatives have and the responsibility that we have to actively lead government."
Hughes, 58, has been a key member of Redford's inner circle and was a federal Conservative MP from 1988 to 1993.
His most recent job was a three-year stint as chair of Alberta Health Services, the amalgamated superboard tasked with delivering front-line care throughout the province.
In that role he became a lightning rod for critics who charged the system was falling off the rails.
Earlier this year, the Health Quality Council delivered a scathing review of the superboard's performance.
It found that on Hughes' watch, wait times for care shot well beyond the national average. Patients were suffering without medication for hours in emergency departments. Palliative care patients were meeting undignified ends lying on gurneys in hospital hallways.
The council said it also found evidence of a systematic intimidation of doctors who spoke out on poor patient care. Some were verbally abused, stripped of hospital privileges or run out of the system altogether.
Hughes stepped down as head of Alberta Health Services last December. He successfully ran for the provincial Progressive Conservative nomination in Calgary-West to replace the retiring Ron Liepert and then won the riding in the April 23 general election.
Opposition Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said she fears Hughes will do for energy what he did for health care.
"Mr. Hughes has a lot to answer for as the chair of the Alberta Health Services superboard, which oversaw almost the complete failure of our health care system," said Smith.
"Having him in the most important position — the energy portfolio — which is the most important ministry for the health of our economy, has me concerned.”
Hughes acknowledged the slings and arrows but said, "The people of Calgary-West spoke and I think the answer was quite clear."
He was one of a handful of newly elected Tory members to get a seat in cabinet.
Ric McIver, the former Calgary city councillor who lost the mayoral race to Naheed Nenshi in 2010, takes over Transportation from the defeated Ray Danyluk.
Businessman Stephen Khan is the new minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education. Former Advanced Education minister Greg Weadick was punted down the ladder to become associate minister to Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths.
Former Calgary school principal Christine Cusanelli takes over for the defeated Jack Hayden as Tourism minister.
Cusanelli was not at the swearing in. Redford said her new minister was on vacation with her family and had been caught in an understandable dilemma: to go on a planned trip this week or call the premier's office and presumptuously inquire whether she should hang around for a possible cabinet post.
"She was quite surprised to hear she was in cabinet and that's one of the reasons she's going to make a good cabinet minister," said Redford. "She's very humble."
Redford made some organizational changes, including merging Justice with the solictor general's department and adding Sustainable Resources to the Environment portfolio.
The Seniors department will now be part of Health, and Aboriginal Relations will get its own ministry under former whip Robin Campbell.
The role of deputy premier has also changed. Former Education minister Thomas Lukaszuk will assume the job and, in a break from tradition, will not have a separate department to manage.
Lukaszuk said his role will likely increase as the premier works on larger files such as the integrated national energy strategy.
"She is putting together a very aggressive policy agenda (and) a very aggressive legislative agenda," said Lukaszuk.
"It is a task that will need to be carried out by more than one person."
Opposition NDP Leader Brian Mason called it a trophy post.
“Appointing Thomas Lukaszuk as the deputy premier without a department to supervise effectively creates a hood ornament for the government," said Mason. "It’s decorative, but it has no practical function. And it costs more.”
The cabinet leaves the south under-represented. The Wildrose party swept the region south of Calgary in the election, leaving three Tories: Weadick and Bridget Pastoor in Lethbridge and Ron Casey in Banff-Cochrane.
None made it to cabinet, but Redford stressed the south will not be left behind.
"We are a government of all Alberta," she said.
Former attorney general Verlyn Olson takes over from the defeated Evan Berger in Agriculture.
Two-term Grande Prairie member Wayne Drysdale is moving from the backbench to the Infrastructure post.
A number of ministers are keeping the jobs assigned to them last fall when Redford won the Tory leadership.
Dave Hancock remains as government house leader and the head of the sprawling Human Services Department.
The other retained ministers are: Manmeet Bhullar (Service Alberta), Cal Dallas (Intergovernmental, International Affairs), Heather Klimchuk (Culture), Diana McQueen (Environment), and Fred Horne (Health).
The premier plans to recall the legislature in two weeks to pick a Speaker to replace Ken Kowalski, who retired.
Highlights Of The Alberta Election
Here's a look back at some of the most memorable moments from the campaign.
Wildrose Anti-Gay Blog Revealed
A blog post saying that gays were destined to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/15/wildrose-anti-gay-blog-alberta_n_1427008.html" target="_hplink">burn in a "lake of fire" for eternity was brought to light on April 16.</a> Allan Hunsperger, a pastor who's running as a Wildrose candidate in Edmonton South, also referenced Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way': "You see, you can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering." Wildrose leader Danielle Smith said she was aware of Hunsperger's religious views.
Smith Booed, Mocked
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith found herself <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/20/danielle-smith-booed-climate-change-alberta-election-debate_n_1439858.html" target="_hplink">on the receiving end of booing and mockery at a debate on April 19 for questioning climate change .</a> "There is still a debate in the scientific community," said Smith before being drowned out by a chorus of boos and catcalls. PC leader Alison Redford said Smith leading the province would be an embarrassment.
Candidate Makes 'White Advantage' Comment
Wildrose candidate Ron Leech <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/17/ron-leech-wildrose-candidate_n_1432653.html" target="_hplink">made some controversial remarks about race on a South Asian radio show.</a> "I think as a Caucasian I have an advantage. When different community leaders such as a Sikh leader or a Muslim leader speaks, they really speak to their own people in many ways. As a Caucasian, I believe that I can speak to all the community," said Leech. He apologized for his remarks on April 24, saying that his comments did not come out the way he intended.
Redford Under Seige
During the April 12 debate, the candidates for the Wildrose, Liberal and NDP took the opportunity to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/12/alberta-election-debate_n_1419850.html" target="_hplink">gang up on Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford</a>. It was an unsurprising tactic given that the Tories have held power in Alberta for 11 consecutive majority governments, although polls reveal the Wildrose may have a fighting chance.
When the Wildrose first rolled out their campaign bus, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/23/alberta-wildrose-campaign_n_1375998.html" target="_hplink">there was something distinctly odd about the wheel placement </a>in relation to Smith's image. Late night host Jay Leno even poked fun at the busty bus before a new, less suggestive design rolled out.
Closing The Gap
An April 10 poll showed that Danielle Smith's Wildrose party was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/11/alberta-election-2012-poll_n_1417267.html" target="_hplink">neck and neck with the Progressive Conservatives</a>. The Leger Marketing poll showed the Wildrose has the support of 36 per cent of Albertans, compared to 34 per cent for the governing Tories.
22 Minutes Pokes Fun At Candidates
This Hour Has 22 Minutes gave their own take on the Alberta election by poking fun at the similarities between Alison Redford and Danielle Smith. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/03/alberta-election-2012-22-minutes_n_1400747.html" target="_hplink">CLICK TO WATCH</a>
PC Staffer Gets Personal
Progressive Conservative staffer<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/31/pc-staffer-resigns-danielle-smith-wildrose-tweet_n_1393807.html" target="_hplink"> Amanda Wilkie "resigned" on March 31 after tweeting</a> "If @ElectDanielle likes young and growing families so much, why doesn't she have children of her own? #wrp family pack = insincere." Backlash came swiftly from the PC, the Wildrose and Twitter users alike. Alison Redford herself issues an apology, but not before Smith revealed that she didn't have children due to fertility issues.
In a moment of levity, but mostly embarrassment for Danielle Smith, the Wildrose leader's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/31/danielle-smith-dogs-wildrose-alberta_n_1394069.html" target="_hplink">dogs got frisky during a photo op in Calgary</a>.
The Other Guys
In a province where conservative values dominate politics, Brian Mason's NDP and Raj Sherman's Liberals are left to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/06/alberta-election-liberals-ndp-edmonton_n_1408884.html" target="_hplink">duke it out in left-leaning pockets such as Edmonton</a>.
On April 10, for the second time, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith was called out for her<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/10/danielle-smith-pro-choice-gay-marriage_n_1416319.html" target="_hplink"> supposed opposing stance on abortion and gay marriage</a>. Smith however snuffed out the controversy: "When our members elected me they knew they were electing a candidate that was pro-choice and pro-gay marriage." The issues came up earlier in the election when <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/07/alberta-election-abortion-social-issues_n_1409963.html" target="_hplink">Smith was less forthcoming</a> on the subjects.
Tory Candidate Assaulted
Alberta's education minister Thomas Lukaszuk claimed he was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/07/thomas-lukaszuk-assault_n_1410308.html" target="_hplink">assaulted while canvassing in an Edmonton neighbourhood</a>. He said he knocked on the door of a residence with a Wildrose support sign and, once recognized, was punched by the resident within. The resident, Al Michalchuk, says he merely nudged Lukaszuk when he refused to leave.