Red Deer representation was noticeably absent from among the newly appointed ministers to Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s new 20-member cabinet.
Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas is no longer a cabinet member, but will report to Prentice as a legislative secretary for intergovernmental relations.
“We were disappointed to see there wasn’t local representation at the cabinet table,” said Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer on Monday.
“We felt fairly confident, as Alberta’s third largest city, that one of our local MLAs would have been at the cabinet table in acknowledgment of that.”
Red Deer North MLA Red Deer North Mary Anne Jablonski agreed the cabinet looked “a little bit small.”
“There should have been a cabinet minister there from Red Deer,” Jablonski said from Edmonton after the premier and cabinet were sworn in.
She said Lethbridge, Alberta’s fourth largest city, didn’t get a minister either and it’s a disappointment for both communities.
Prentice took on the role of Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, replacing Dallas who was minister since October 2011. Prentice also became Minister of Aboriginal Relations.
Dallas took the change in stride.
“Certainly I would have like to have seen Red Deer represented with a member in cabinet. That’s not the choice the premier has made for now. I need to respect that and will work to rectify that in the future,” Dallas said.
The Red Deer South MLA remains on the Treasury Board and said he had not yet had a chance to talk about his new role as legislative secretary with the premier.
“I’m looking forward to learning exactly what he has in mind there. It’s a file I’m familiar with and one that I’m keen to continue to work on.”
He said the new cabinet has “plenty of passion to change some direction and move forward.”
Jablonski said Red Deer will still be able to achieve great things and was impressed with the access she has to Prentice.
“The premier continues to make himself accessible to his caucus. I’ve had more access to him in the last week than I’ve had previously with other premiers,” she said.
“I think Alberta has a lot to look forward to with our new premier and cabinet and I would say Red Deer also has a lot to look forward to.”
When asked whether Michener Centre has a better chance to remain open now that Heather Klimchuk is the new Minister of Human Services, Jablonski sounded optimistic.
“I have spoken to the premier himself about Michener and he assures me that he is making a decision about Michener this week and I am looking forward to what the decision will be.”
She was also thrilled that there was once again an independent Ministry of Seniors.
“That was something I did advise our new premier on. We have 440,000 seniors in Alberta, one tenth of our population, and I felt they should have their own ministry because they have a lot of issues we need to deal with.”
Jablonski said Minister of Justice Jonathan Denis, who maintained his cabinet position, acknowledged to her that Red Deer remains on the priority list when it comes to a new court house.
Veer said the city also saw Denis’ reappointment as positive after many meetings with his ministry regarding a court house.
She said areas of significant decisions have been delayed waiting for a new premier to be chosen.
“It will take some time for the public policy agenda to start moving through again, presumably because there are unelected members on cabinet,” Veer said.
Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle was worried that the two biggest portfolios, health and education, were given to two people who are not elected so not accountable to the public at this time.
“That’s almost 50 per cent of the budget. That is shocking,” said the MLA for Innisfail and Sylvan Lake.
It’s not a given anymore in Alberta that a candidate is going to win if they’re PC, she said.
And regardless of the premier announcing that the province was under new management on Monday, the cabinet was hardly what she would call new, Towle said.
“I think the message clearly sent here is that it really is just more of the same, especially when it comes to Mr. McIver and Mr. Drysdale — the two people who were fundamentally responsible for the ‘Sky Palace’, who should have protected taxpayers, who should have cancelled the Sky Palace, who didn’t cancel the Sky Palace, who are still in cabinet — so the entitlements continue.”
She said auditor general Merwan Saher’s report in August showed the residential floor plans for the former premier Alison Redford’s luxury penthouse were never cancelled, but instead turned into meeting rooms.