NDP say flurry of Alberta board appointments a return to 'culture of cronyism'

The press releases were coming fast and furious Friday morning as the Alberta government announced new board appointments for many provincial agencies.

Opposition calls it purge of good people replaced by failed UCP candidates, former PC MLAs and donors

The NDP is accusing the Alberta government of returning to the old days of political cronyism after the UCP announced 60 new appointments to agencies, boards and commissions in the province and changed the chairs of the boards of nine colleges and universities. (CBC)

The press releases were coming fast and furious Friday morning as the Alberta government announced new board appointments for many provincial agencies.

Announcements were made for several bodies, including Alberta Health Services (AHS), the Workers Compensation Board (WCB), the Human Rights Commission and the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC).

The United Conservative government also announced a comprehensive overhaul of the governance of Alberta's colleges and universities, removing many appointments made by the former NDP government.

Failed UCP candidates installed

The NDP was quick to chime in with its thoughts on the flurry of appointments.

"Premier Jason Kenney purged more than a dozen public boards and commissions today and installed failed UCP candidates, former PC MLAs and conservative donors," the Opposition said in a release.

The party is accusing the government of appointing political allies.

"This is a shameful return to the [Progressive Conservative] culture of cronyism," said David Eggen, the NDP's advanced education critic.

"More than 14,000 regular Albertans have lost their jobs over the past two months, while Premier Kenney is making sure his failed candidates, defeated MLAs and legacy donors get board appointments."

He also pointed to the differences in the timing from when the NDP took office in 2015. He said in Friday's news conference the NDP did not do the same thing, instead waiting until their terms ended before making replacements.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon defended the appointments.

"I don't think they are partisan at all," he said Friday at a Calgary Chamber event.

"I think my understanding in the breakdown, it's pretty clear that most people with appointments are not people associated with the party."

Here's a roundup of the appointments.

Alberta Health Services

The province selected the former top lawyer at Alberta Health Services to lead its board of directors. Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced on Friday that David Weyant has been appointed to lead the board.

Weyant previously served as senior vice-president and general counsel of AHS. He is also president and CEO of both the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association and the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Exchange.

The province also appointed Brian Vaasjo, president and CEO of Capital Power, to the eight-member AHS board.

He was previously an executive vice-president with EPCOR. Weyant and Vaasjo will serve three-year terms.

Outgoing chair Linda Hughes will continue to sit on the board.

"These new members add extensive financial, legal and business expertise to the broad range of skills and experience on the AHS board. They'll make the board even stronger as we move forward to ensure the health system delivers the best results for Albertans," Shandro said in release.

Workers' Compensation Board

The province's WCB board of directors has been reduced from 10 to seven members, which the province says will save as much as $56,000 in spending.

"The reduced numbers will help to streamline the work done by the WCB board of directors, providing opportunity for more effective and efficient decision-making," said the province in a release.

The new chair is Erna Ference, who replaces Grace Thostenson. The province says she has a background in workplace health and safety, the agricultural industry and fiscal management.

While the board boasts smaller numbers, the province says there will still be the same proportion of employer, worker and public representatives.

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission

Len Rhodes, the former president of the Edmonton Eskimos who ran for the UCP in the last election, is the new chair of the agency overseeing alcohol, gambling and cannabis. He is joined by Craig Corbett, Gerard Curran and Elan Harper in new appointments.

"I would also like to thank the previous board members for their service to Albertans and look forward to the continued success of the board as it makes decisions that ensure Alberta's liquor, gaming and cannabis sector is well administered to benefit all Albertans," said Travis Toews, president of the treasury board and minister of finance, in a release.

Human Rights Commission

Five tribunal members have been appointed to Alberta's Human Rights Commission, which the province says has the mandate of "fostering equality and reducing discrimination across the province."

  • Teresa Haykowksy
  • Collin May
  • Erika Ringseis
  • Doris Bonora
  • Moin Yahya 

Municipal Government Board

Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu announced three new members of the Municipal Government Board:

  • Andy Crooks
  • Andrew Melton
  • Greg Krischke

Crooks has four decades of experience in law and helped establish the plan for Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, according to the province. Melton has worked in the real estate industry for more than 35 years, while Krischke has worked for 45 years in strategic planning, as well as municipal leadership.

The Municipal Government Board is an independent, impartial quasi-judicial board established that makes decisions about land planning and assessment matters.

Alberta Teachers' Retirement Fund

Paul Haggis, a board chair with the Alberta Enterprise Corporation, has been appointed as a board member of the Alberta Teachers' Retirement Fund — established in 1939 to administer the Teachers' Pension Plan for all Alberta teachers.

"Haggis has a wealth of experience and knowledge in consolidating and growing public sector pension funds," said the province in a release.

Haggis served as the CEO of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System and the founding director and CEO of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board. He was also the former CEO of Alberta Treasury Branches and a member of the board of directors at the Bank of Canada.

Alberta Enterprise Corporation

Ted Redmond is the new chair of Alberta Enterprise Corporation, and the province says his experience in both the Canadian and American energy sectors bring expertise "in the oilsands, conventional oil and gas and petrochemical industries as we take action to get Albertans back to work."

Rules of Court Committee

William Kenny, with Miller Thomson LLP, will join the ranks of the Rule of Courts Committee after being recommended by the Law Society of Alberta.

"His experience and expertise make him an excellent addition to the committee, and I am confident he will serve Albertans well in the position," said Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer in a release.


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