Alberta Premier Rachel Notley expands cabinet to include six new ministers
David Eggen and Rachel Notley react to the large crowd before Notley was sworn in as Alberta's 17th premier, by Chief Justice of Alberta Catherine Fraser in Edmonton, Alta., on Sunday, May 24, 2015. (Jason Franson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 2, 2016 9:23AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 2, 2016 7:55PM EST
EDMONTON -- Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has expanded her inner circle by almost half, carved up responsibilities and titles and appointed an openly gay cabinet minister.
Ricardo Miranda, who represents the constituency of Calgary Cross, now heads Culture and Tourism.
"I guess it's historic in some ways, but to me it's just a reflection of how far we've come in this province," Miranda said Tuesday.
Kristopher Wells, director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, used Twitter to congratulate the former flight attendant on becoming the "first publicly out LGBTQ cabinet minister in Alberta's history!"
"It's important to know our history and our past -- this is a province that was very hostile and unfriendly to LGBT people until very recent times," Wells said in an interview, citing past opposition to same-sex marriage.
"Diversity does not happen on its own -- it takes thought and intentionality to ensure that Albertans are appropriately represented and also the diversity of ideas and backgrounds and lived experiences is critical.
"I don't underestimate what this means to the LGBT community and particularly to young people who may strive to hold office."
Also new to cabinet are Calgary backbenchers Stephanie McLean and Brandy Payne, both of whom are pregnant.
McLean, who is due Sunday, is the new minister for Service Alberta, which is in charge of provincial registries. She will also be responsible for the status of women, a duty formerly held by Environment Minister Shannon Phillips.
Payne becomes the associate minister for health.
Notley said the cabinet ministers who previously ran those portfolios will take over responsibilities as necessary while McLean and Payne are on maternity leave.
"We're going to accommodate that and ensure that we are a place where women can engage fully in the opportunities for leadership that all Albertans want and need to see them adopt," Notley said.
McLean said she plans to be briefed on the issues and be as active as possible.
"I envision perhaps being in the hospital shortly after giving birth, on a conference call," she said. "Having never had a child before and having never been a cabinet minister before, these are things that will just sort of sort out as we go."
Lori Sigurdson was moved from Advanced Education and Labour to Seniors and Housing. Former whip Marlin Schmidt from Edmonton takes over Advanced Education as a stand-alone portfolio.
Richard Feehan, also an Edmonton member of the legislature, is the new minister for Indigenous Relations, which used to be part of the Justice Ministry.
Christina Gray takes over the Labour Ministry and will also look after the new portfolio of Democratic Renewal. Gray is currently chairing an all-party committee looking at ways to make the democratic process more transparent and accountable.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman takes on the added responsibility of deputy premier.
This is the second change to a 12-member cabinet Notley appointed when her NDP government assumed power last May. She added the Economic Development Department in October and named Deron Bilous as its minister. Danielle Larivee, a backbencher at the time, was elevated to Bilous's old job as municipal affairs minister.
Notley said the original cabinet worked well, but as her government implements changes, more responsibility needs to be shared.
"It was never our plan to keep the cabinet that size (at 12)," she said. "It was our plan to focus on our priorities and get a lay of the land and establish a key overarching framework.
"Now we're in the position where we're going to get more of that work done."