Jim Prentice hopes to be sworn in, have new cabinet within week

Incoming Alberta premier Jim Prentice says he hopes to be sworn in and have a new, slimmed-down cabinet in place in about a week.

EDMONTON — Incoming Alberta premier Jim Prentice says he hopes to be sworn in and have a new, slimmed-down cabinet in place in about a week.

Prentice also says he is looking for a legislative re-set on his caucus, starting with a possible throne speech in the fall and non-elected appointees to cabinet.

“I’m hopeful that the swearing-in would happen very quickly, potentially next Monday, but those decisions haven’t been finalized yet,” Prentice said Monday at Government House prior to a meeting with current Premier Dave Hancock.

The former Calgary Conservative MP also said he has not decided on where he will run in a byelection to gain a seat in the house. The transition to the premier’s office takes priority for now, he said.

The only seat that is open belongs to former premier Alison Redford, who resigned as member of the legislature for Calgary-Elbow last month. PC backbencher Neil Brown has offered his seat in Calgary-Mackay-Nose Hill.

Prentice said he plans to announce the new cabinet at the same time he is sworn in. He said it will have about 20 members — about 10 less than the executive council run by Redford.

Prentice didn’t discount naming unelected Albertans to the cabinet.

“I’m giving full consideration to all the alternatives.”

In the closing days of the leadership race, there were reports that Prentice was considering appointing former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel to cabinet.

Mandel has said he would run for a seat under a Prentice government.

Prentice wouldn’t say Monday if he would appoint Mandel, who is currently helping out Prentice as part of his transition team.

But he did say: “You know how highly I think of him and I would love to have him on our team.”

Prentice won the PC leadership vote on the weekend. He handily defeated former Tory cabinet ministers Thomas Lukaszuk and Ric McIver by capturing 77 per cent of the vote.

He ran on a platform of democratic renewal and stepped into controversy when he promised to bring in a bill that would set finite limits on how long MLAs and the premier could stay in office.

That idea was met with immediate criticism as potentially unconstitutional. Prentice said at the time he might pursue the idea as simply PC party policy.

On Monday, he said he will still push discussions on that topic with the party, but added that putting forward legislation was not a priority.

He also said he may introduce a new legislature session in the fall, starting with a throne speech, rather than continue with the previous session.

“That’s certainly an option that’s under consideration.”

A throne speech would be in keeping with Prentice’s promise during the campaign and on election night to launch a new era for the Tories, free from the scandal that forced Redford to resign as premier in March.

Under Redford, the Tories fell steeply in the polls as it was revealed that she and her office spent lavishly on travel and office perks.

The largesse included personal flights for Redford, along with trips for her daughter and her daughter’s friends. Prentice has promised strict new rules on using government planes.

A bureaucrat was also paid to travel the world scouting out and laying the groundwork for Redford’s political trips.

Her office had also been quietly planning a penthouse retreat on top of a government building before the plan was scrapped.

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