EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford shuffled more than half the ministers in her cabinet Friday, promoting rising stars Manmeet Bhullar and Robin Campbell while demoting Doug Griffiths and deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk.
Bhullar, the MLA for Calgary-Greenway moves from the Service Alberta portfolio to replace Dave Hancock at Human Services, a sprawling portfolio that takes in child and youth issues, social programs and homelessness.
Campbell leaves Aboriginal Relations to take over as minister in charge of the Environment and Sustainable Resource development.
The West Yellowhead MLA becomes the key point person to explain to critics that the province, as it ramps up oil production, remains committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Campbell also takes over Hancock's job as government house leader and will now be in charge of steering government legislation through the house.
"The strengthened ministerial team will lead the next phase of the Building Alberta Plan, with a focus on expanding our economy, driving innovation and working every day to create an even better quality of life for Albertans," Redford said in a news release.
Redford increased the number of departments from 18 to 19, creating a new ministry of Jobs, Skills, Training, and Labour — to be run by Lukaszuk.
Lukaszuk will be replaced in the Advanced Education portfolio and as deputy premier by Hancock.
Hancock is the fourth minister to run Advanced Education since Redford took over as premier two years ago.
Griffiths is out as head of Municipal Affairs and will take over Service Alberta, the department in charge of licensing and registries.
Both Lukaszuk and Griffiths struggled in their jobs.
Lukaszuk presided over a ministry that cut $147 million from post-secondary institutions in the spring budget and then, after institutions had cut staff and courses, returned $50 million.
Griffiths had trouble building relationships with mayors and reeves, even getting into a war of words with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
In the fall sitting, Griffiths was forced to backtrack on a bill that critics said would give the province control of all regional planning and even jail elected officials who didn't comply.
Ken Hughes leaves his job as Energy minister to replaces Griffiths at municipal affairs
Diana McQueen, the former environment minister, is now the energy minister.
Wayne Drysdale and Ric McIver are switching jobs — Drysdale is the new Transportation minister and McIver becomes the head of Infrastructure.
The changes, including new associate ministers, increase the total number of people with seats at the cabinet table to 30 from 27 — half the total number of 59 Progressive Conservatives.
Opposition parties said Redford is quelling discontent in her backbenches by doling out cabinet and associate cabinet posts.
"Handing out cabinet positions like candy is no way to manage a government,” said NDP Leader Brian Mason.
“The premier is attempting to buy the loyalty of her fractured caucus with money that should be going to health care and education.
"We are seeing a bloated, expensive cabinet, appointed for political expediency rather than merit."
Fred Horne remains Health minister and Doug Horner continues as Finance minister and president of Treasury Board.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said keeping Horner and Horne means the province is committed to continuing to run red ink budgets and operate a health system that is struggling to meet wait times targets while experiencing constant turnover at the executive level.
"The premier should have taken this opportunity to replace these ministers and appoint fresh faces with new perspectives to these important posts," said Smith.
"By keeping the status quo in these positions, the premier has signalled that debt will continue to mount and wait times will continue to grow."
Other ministers keeping their jobs are: Heather Klimchuk in Culture, Cal Dallas (International and Intergovernmental Relations), Jeff Johnson (Education), Verlyn Olson (Agriculture), Jonathan Denis (Justice and Solicitor General) and Richard Starke (Tourism).
Mason said having Lukaszuk — famous for making outspoken, provocative comments —sends "a very bad message" given the province just passed legislation revoking the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees' right to arbitration in favour of an imposed settlement.
"Redford’s choice makes me wonder very much if we’ll have an anti-labour minister instead of a labour minister," said Mason.
The only new face with full cabinet rank is Frank Oberle.
Oberle, the former associate minister in charge of persons with disabilities, is now in charge of Aboriginal Relations.
Among the changes to the associate ministers, Dave Quest takes over from George VanderBurg in the seniors issues job.
George VanderBurg has been dropped from cabinet entirely and replaces Steve Young as government whip.
Young moves into cabinet as associate minister in charge of a new public safety portfolio.
Donna Kennedy-Glans will take over another new remit: electricity and renewable energy.
Naresh Bhardwaj replaces Oberle as the man in charge of persons with disabilities.
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