ALBERTA

Alberta NDP Election Winners Sworn In As New MLAs

06/01/2015 02:09 EDT | Updated 06/01/2016 05:59 EDT
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EDMONTON - Most of them are raw rookies, but they are now officially members of the legislature after winning their seats in last month's Alberta election.

Premier Rachel Notley and 51 members of her NDP caucus were sworn in Monday and, with that, have been granted the privilege to sit and conduct business in the house.

"It was kind of that reality moment," said rookie MLA Graham Sucha of Calgary Shaw.

"I realized the magnitude of what was going to happen, the privilege we have to represent the people in our riding."

In all, 85 of 87 MLAs were sworn in. Sixteen have sat in the house before.

Four New Democrats have experience in the legislature: Notley, Brian Mason, David Eggen and Deron Bilous.

The youngest New Democrats are in their 20s; the oldest in their 60s.

The youngest, Thomas Dang, 20, agreed it all began to sink in while he was sitting in the chamber.

"We were saying, 'This is real. We're MLAs and we're going to be able to make this change and bring this positive energy to Alberta,'" said Dang.

Some MLAs have already been hard at work.

Notley announced her 12-member cabinet more than a week ago and many of the ministers are handling multiple portfolios.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said the workload is intense.

"I went for a run the other day and I was feeling a little stressed with the briefing binders and all of that and then I was like, 'Hey, wait a second. The good guys won, Phillips. Calm down," she said.

The NDP toppled 44 years of successive Progressive Conservative governments in the May 5 election by winning a 54-seat majority.

The caucus number has already changed and could change again.

Deborah Drever, 26, won the Calgary Bow seat for the NDP, but was later suspended from caucus following controversial photos and Internet comments. She was sworn in Monday afternoon as an Independent.

Another New Democrat, Anam Kazim, was not sworn in. She defeated PC incumbent Linda Johnson by a razor-thin vote in Calgary Glenmore, but the seat is under a judicial recount.

Also sworn in on Monday were the 21 members of the Opposition Wildrose party, nine members of the Progressive Conservatives, Liberal Leader David Swann, Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark and Drever.

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean is a rookie, but has 10 years of experience as a Conservative MP. Of Jean's caucus members, Rick Strankman, Drew Barnes and Pat Stier have sat in the house before.

The Wildrose won 17 seats in the 2012 election, but had only three incumbents last month after most of the caucus crossed the floor to the Tories in December.

Calgary Foothills is vacant. It was won by former premier Jim Prentice, but he quit on election night. A byelection is one of many items on Notley's agenda.

A new Speaker is to be chosen June 11, followed by a short legislature session, mainly to pass an interim budget to allow the government to operate until there's a full budget in the fall.

The Speaker is a free vote of all members of the legislature, but NDP member Bob Wanner of Medicine Hat has already said he has the support of his caucus.