POLITICS
10/03/2011 12:44 EDT | Updated 12/03/2011 05:12 EST

Alberta premier- designate Alison Redford to name cabinet within two weeks

EDMONTON - Alberta premier-designate Alison Redford says she will move quickly to put her own stamp on the government.

Redford is to hold her first caucus meeting Tuesday in Edmonton and predicts there will be new faces when she names her cabinet within two weeks.

She says ministers will be appointed based on merit.

"We have a really great caucus and a lot of people who were elected in 2008, when I was elected, who are very committed to change and need to be given responsibility," Redford told a radio talk show Monday.

"We are going to have a cabinet that reflects what change looks like, and, from my perspective, it is not going to be about who supported candidates."

None of her colleagues in Premier Ed Stelmach's cabinet supported her bid for the Progressive Conservative leadership.

Redford, 46, said she reached out to her rivals Sunday after her come-from-behind victory, but didn't indicate if she offered them jobs in her inner circle.

The former justice minister has already outlined her agenda for the coming months and explained how she will make good on promises made during the campaign.

Redford said she may dip into Alberta's sustainability fund to pay for her $107-million promise to rescind cuts to public education — a key pledge she made to win the support of educators.

Her government will seek to negotiate long-term contracts, perhaps as long as five years, with teachers and nurses.

She also said she wants to scrap the use of standardized provincial achievement tests in Grades 3 and 6.

Redford spoke of her plan to change three contentious laws passed by the Tories in 2009. She says she wants to amend legislation next spring that allows the government to freeze private land for infrastructure projects. She also intends to suspend a land-use planning law and send some power line transmission projects back to the drawing board.

"I am not going to unnecessarily delay decision-making," she said. "I believe that Albertans have said that now that we are through this leadership campaign they expect this party to govern. They expect this government to get back to business, and we are going to do that."

The education funding promise was already being praised by the president of the Alberta School Boards Association.

Jacquie Hansen said Redford's pledge to rescind cuts would allow 62 publicly funded school boards to rehire hundreds of teachers, reduce class sizes and bolster programs, including for special education students.

The association is expecting to get more details in the next 10 days to two weeks, Hansen said.

"We are thrilled and from my conversation with her it really seems like she is going to come through with this commitment," she said.

"We have been stretched right to the max over the past two years. It tells us that she wants to invest in education."

Redford won't be calling a fall sitting of the legislature, however, a decision that some of Alberta's opposition parties are focusing on in their first attacks on the new leader.

Liberal Opposition Leader Raj Sherman has already said taxpayers effectively will be without a government for one year. The spring sitting concluded last May.

And Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith suggested Monday that Redford's decision to cancel the fall sitting is an example of a government working in secret.

Smith said Redford's early decisions indicate she will be a premier who, like her predecessors, believes that government can make decisions outside the normal budget and legislative processes.

Redirecting money from the sustainability fund to restore education money should be brought to the legislative assembly for debate, Smith said. Another option would be to find the cash within the existing $36-billion budget.

"This is the kind of thing that happens when you have a government that has been in power for 40 years," Smith said. "They think the rules don't apply to them."

Smith made the comments at a news conference to announce the completion of her party's policy document. She said it positions the Wildrose as Alberta's lone defender of fiscal conservatism and decentralized decision-making.

Redford said she needs some time to get organized, but added she may call a provincial election as early as June.

Her transition team includes Ken Hughes, chairman of Alberta Health Services, and Stephen Carter, her former campaign chairman.

The team is being led by Redford's longtime friend and former husband, Robert Hawkes, a Calgary lawyer.

—With files from Dean Bennett