Three central Alberta MLAs in ministerial positions means more political clout for the region, local community leaders agree.
Reg Warkentin, policy adviser for the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, thinks it’s “absolutely fantastic” that this area is so well represented in the new provincial cabinet.
Red Deer-North MLA Adriana LaGrange, a former Red Deer Catholic school trustee, was appointed Alberta’s new education minister Tuesday.
Jason Nixon, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, is the environment and parks minister.
And Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen is the agriculture and forestry minister.
Warkentin noted Dreeshen brings much experience to the table, since he was a former assistant to Gerry Ritz, the federal agriculture minister in Stephen Harper’s government.
Warkentin also feels LaGrange’s in-depth knowledge of educational issues will help equip a future workforce with skills to fuel Alberta’s economy.
“For us to have such a talented slate of MLAs, from such diverse and strong backgrounds … (indicates) great things will be happening for central Alberta,” said Warkentin.
He feels there’s already more business optimism, based on United Conservative Party promises to repeal the carbon tax and drop the corporate tax rate to eight per cent from 12 per cent.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer welcomes this regional representation, saying it reflects Red Deer’s growing influence, provincially.
While the city has no direct connection to new Health Minister Tyler Shandro of Calgary, Veer said city council will keep up its advocacy for the hospital expansion by meeting with him, as well as meeting with the ministers of infrastructure and social services to discuss the preservation of Parsons House and the need for a local addictions treatment centre and the promised homeless shelter.
Anne Marie Watson, chair of the Red Deer Catholic school board, knows LaGrange and calls her “hard working, principled and personable” — qualities required for a good education minister.
Although LaGrange has so far worked from a Catholic perspective, Watson is confident she can represent all school boards and students — including those now benefiting from gay-straight alliances.
While there was election talk of changing this legislation, Watson said she doesn’t get too “riled up” about things that may not come to pass.
“I look forward to working with her,” she added.
Red Deer city councillor Lawrence Lee, a former Red Deer public school trustee, said “time will tell” how LaGrange will work out as education minister, but he’s very pleased that Red Deer and central Alberta will have so much representation in cabinet.
Nixon called serving as environment and parks minister, as well as government House leader, “a tremendous honour.”
He committed to “always put Albertans first in the decision-making process.”
Premier Jason Kenney was sworn in as president of the executive council and minister of intergovernmental relations.
Other ministers are:
* Travis Toews, finance
* Doug Schweitzer, justice
* Sonya Savage, energy
* Ric McIver, transportation
* Demetrios Nicolaides, advanced education
* Rebecca Shulz, children’s services
* Rajan Sawhney, community and social services
* Leela Aheer, culture, multiculturalism and status of women
* Tanya Fir, economic development, trade and tourism
* Tyler Shandro, health
* Rick Wilson, Indigenous relations
* Prasad Panda, infrastructure
* Jason Copping, labour and immigration
* Kaycee Madu, municipal affairs
* Josephine Pon, seniors and housing
* Nate Glubish, Service Alberta minister
Associate ministers are Jason Luan (mental health, addictions), Dale Nally (natural gas) and Grant Hunter.
A new legislative session is to begin later in May.