Premier shuffles cabinet

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has made Gene Zwozdesky the province's new health minister, and moved Ron Liepert from Health to Energy in a cabinet shuffle announced Wednesday.

Zwozdesky takes over Health while Liepert moves to Energy

Edmonton MLA Gene Zwozdesky was named Alberta's new health minister. ((CBC))
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has made Gene Zwozdesky the province's new health minister, and moved Ron Liepert from Health to Energy in a cabinet shuffle announced Wednesday.

Ted Morton, the current minister of sustainable resource development, will move to Finance and Iris Evans will leave that portfolio to become Alberta's new minister of international and intergovernmental relations.

Former energy minister Mel Knight will take over from Morton in the sustainable resource development portfolio.

Yvonne Fritz was named the new children and youth services minister, taking over from Janis Tarchuk, who is no longer a member of cabinet.

Alberta cabinet minister Ron Liepert was moved from Health to Energy. ((CBC))
Edmonton Castle Downs MLA Thomas Lukaszuk will be Alberta's new minister of employment and immigration.

Calgary-Egmont MLA Jonathan Denis is another new face to cabinet and will take over Housing and Urban Affairs. Peace River MLA Frank Oberle was named solicitor general and minister of public security. 

Current Solicitor General Fred Lindsay and Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld will no longer be members of cabinet.

The new cabinet can better help move Alberta out of the economic downturn, Stelmach told reporters. 

"The team that I've put together are better prepared to communicate the policies and direction of the government," he said, adding that they can help deal with health-care delivery, an issue that is important to Albertans.

"To make sure that it is not only the best-performing but it's accessible, there's quality of care and that it's sustainable well into the future."

Moving Liepert to Energy was a strategic move, Stelmach said, because he is a task-focused minister who can apply the same skills he used in the health ministry.

"He has brought about structural changes in health ... Energy of course is [a] critical file to Alberta because it is a significant revenue generator, but it's also a ministry that is going to be going through the competitiveness review."

Other cabinet moves include:

  • Ray Danyluk to Infrastructure from Municipal Affairs.
  • Jack Hayden to Agriculture from Infrastructure.
  • Len Webber to Aboriginal Relations from International and Intergovernmental Relations.

The new cabinet will be sworn in at Government House on Friday morning.

Opposition slams Stelmach's leadership

Leaders of opposition parties were quick to criticize Stelmach's announcement.

"It doesn't really matter what faces they put into cabinet. The real problem we have is the leadership," said Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith.  

"I think you can put whoever you want in each of those different portfolios, but unless the leader and his key advisers are committed to changing the direction of government, it's not going to make a bit of difference."

Liberal Leader David Swann said he was puzzled by Stelmach's announcement. 

"In the last cabinet, the 12 most influential people are still the 12 most influential people..." he said. "Not very much has changed in the existing cabinet."

But Swann was positive about the choice of Zwozdesky as health minister.

"I know he's a listener. I have confidence he will listen to both the evidence and the professionals in the system who have many good ideas for how it could be better," Swann said.

Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason echoed Swann and Smith's comments about a lack of change at the cabinet table.

"I think Premier Stelmach has again failed Albertans and that the present policies as far as I can see are going to be continued," he said.

"After nearly 40 years in power, the real question is not the faces that hold the individual portfolios but the fact that you have a tired-out Conservative government that's stopped listening to people and is out of ideas."

On Liepert's move, Mason was blunt.

"Same bull. Different china shop," he said of the minister who has a reputation for being abrasive. "It's a sensitive position. An important position … and it requires someone with diplomatic skills, and Mr. Liepert is sorely lacking in that regard."