Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced multiple cabinet changes following resignations tied to his party’s leadership race, with Environment Minister Jason Nixon now taking over permanently as finance minister.
“As Alberta continues to experience strong economic growth and job creation, our focus is on providing stable and steady government that will allow this growth to continue,” Kenney said in a news release announcing the changes late Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m confident that these changes to cabinet and the new members at the table will contribute to even stronger growth and prosperity in the future.”
The changes come after Kenney cabinet ministers Travis Toews, Rebecca Schulz and Rajan Sawhney resigned recently to run in the leadership race.
The three stepped down in order to avoid a conflict of interest in the contest. Toews left the finance portfolio three weeks ago, and Nixon took over those duties along with his environment and parks portfolio.
Schulz had been in charge of children’s services and Sawhney handled transportation.
All three have been in Kenney’s cabinet since it was first struck on April 30, 2019.
Whitney Issik, the associate minister of the status of women, now takes over Nixon’s old job as the minister for environment and parks.
Calgary-South East MLA Matt Jones is the new minister for children’s services and Calgary-Currie member Nicholas Milliken will head up infrastructure as current Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda moves to the transportation portfolio.
Backbencher Brad Rutherford will now be a cabinet minister without portfolio and also handle chief whip duties while Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk moves into cabinet as the associate minister of the status of women.
The changes may end up being temporary.
The party selects the new leader Oct. 6 and the replacement is expected to put their own stamp on cabinet.
The next election also looms, with voting day set for May 29, 2023.
The leadership race was called after Kenney received just 51 percent support in a party leadership review a month ago and immediately announced he was stepping down.
He will leave the top job when the new leader is picked.
There are five other candidates in the race, including party backbenchers Brian Jean and Leela Aheer.
Independent member Todd Loewen, voted out of the UCP caucus over a year ago for calling on Kenney to resign, is also running.
Former Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith and Bill Rock, the mayor of the village of Amisk, have also announced.
Calgary Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner stated on social media last week she is considering making a bid as well.
The entrance fee is $150,000 and the deadline to submit an application to run is a month from now, on July 20.
By Dean Bennett