ALBERTA

Alberta's Rachel Notley And New Cabinet Have High Expectations To Live Up To, Say Experts

05/25/2015 04:14 EDT | Updated 05/25/2016 05:59 EDT
EDMONTON - Political analysts say Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's first cabinet may be small but it will have to manage big expectations.

"They've got a lot of work to do identifying priorities," said Duane Bratt, a political scientist with Mount Royal University in Calgary, said Monday.

"There are a lot of people who are expecting this magic wand in social services, in health, in education, just to happen — and we still have a $7-billion hole in the budget."

Notley and her 11-member cabinet team were sworn in Sunday on the steps of the legislature, officially dethroning a Progressive Conservative dynasty that had run the province for almost 44 years.

Notley has promised to deliver reform on major issues, including a drastic hike to minimum wage, a review of oil royalties, money for thousands of new students and a balanced budget by 2018-19.

The cabinet includes the four NDP incumbents from the last legislature session plus eight newcomers.

Former premier Jim Prentice, by comparison, was one of 17 cabinet ministers plus three associate ministers.

Some of Notley's cabinet team have dual portfolios, some with more responsibilities on top of that.

Political analyst Bob Murray said that runs the risk of bottlenecks and poor outcomes.

"With such a lean cabinet, what is going to be the decision-making process and what is the apparatus that the new government has put in place to ensure that decisions are streamlined and being made in an effective and timely manner?" asked Murray, vice-president of research for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Former NDP Leader Brian Mason, as an example, will handle both the sprawling Infrastructure and Transportation departments while also organizing the business of the assembly as government house leader.

Mason's job will be to deliver new schools promised in 2012 but never delivered by the Tories to go with demands for more hospitals and new roads.

The cabinet has six members from Edmonton and three from Calgary. There is one each from northern, central, and southern Alberta.

Notley has been criticized for short-changing Calgary at the expense of Edmonton, at the cabinet table.

But pollster and political analyst Janet Brown noted that while Calgary has fewer ministers, the ones it has wield big-stick authority.

"We've got three people with senior-level portfolios," said Brown.

"In terms of the public large at large I don't think this (Edmonton-Calgary disparity) is going to be a problem."

Joe Ceci, the MLA for Calgary-Fort and a former longtime city councillor, is the new Finance minister.

Irfan Sabir, the MLA for Calgary-McCall, is now in charge of delivering social care in the Human Services portfolio.

Lawyer Kathleen Ganley, representing Calgary-Buffalo, is the new Justice minister and Solicitor General, and is in charge of Aboriginal Relations.

Brown said a tight cabinet featuring many people Notley has known and worked with is a prudent course as the NDP begins to shift policy.

"She's trying to rein stuff in. She's trying to sort of put the control in the hands of few trusted people," said Brown.

"This is all about containment … figure out where the landmines are, try to keep a tight group together moving in the same direction."

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