Meet Marg McCuaig-Boyd, Alberta's new energy minister
Cabinet member has much more experience in education than energy
She's not a household name, but Marg McCuaig-Boyd is now one of the most important cabinet ministers in Rachel Notley's new NDP government in Alberta.
McCuaig-Boyd was named energy minister on Sunday and has a big job ahead of her.
So who is McCuaig-Boyd?
For starters, she lacks any direct experience working in the oil and gas industry. By profession, she was a teacher and administrator with the Peace River School Division. After decades in the school system, she worked as a vice-president with the Grande Prairie Regional College in the town of Fairview, about 80 kilometres west of Peace River in northern Alberta.
Before her successful election campaign for the NDP in the riding of Dunvegan-Central Peace, McCuaig-Boyd was semi-retired, running her own consulting company.
It's all going to be open and transparent as we move along.- Marg McCuaig-Boyd, Alberta energy minister
"Very warm, very open, very easy to communicate with [and] very dependable — just one real nice person," said former colleague Debie Knudsen.
The two have known each other for more than a decade, working together in several different capacities as teachers and at the local chamber of commerce, where Knudsen is now executive director.
"I thought she would be in for something with education because of her background," Knudsen said. "But then I thought about it and energy is what's really driving northern Alberta and she is from the north."
Geography may have been the reason why McCuaig-Boyd was given the energy portfolio. It's no secret oil and gas is the predominant economic driver in the northern part of the province, followed by agriculture and forestry.
"So exciting that it is someone from the north," Knudsen said. "A lot of people from Calgary and Edmonton have no clue who we are or what we are up here."
McCuaig-Boyd is well known in her community, as is her husband — a farmer in the area.
The NDP ran on a platform to raise corporate taxes from 10 per cent to 12 per cent and conduct a review of oil and gas royalties. The change in government created immediate fear and uncertainty in the energy sector.
But several CEOs have said they look forward to working with the new government.
After she was sworn in on Sunday, McCuaig-Boyd told reporters the energy industry has nothing to worry about.
"My door's going to be open. It's all going to be open and transparent as we move along," she said.
Working with energy industry
During her time at Grande Prairie Regional College, McCuaig-Boyd worked with the local energy industry to ensure students were properly trained to meet the needs of employers, according to college president Don Gnatiuk.
"I was surprised," said Gnatiuk about McCuaig-Boyd being named energy minister. "But in terms of competency and a brilliant mind, I bet she'll do just fine."
Gnatiuk has known McCuaig-Boyd for about six years and describes her as a champion of education and her community.
Another colleague offering praise was Anita Luck, who got to know the new MLA when McCuaig-Boyd taught her sons 30 years ago.
"She's a hard worker and has lots of integrity," said Luck, who believes McCuaig-Boyd will be successful in her new position. "This is a clean slate so to speak. There isn't a whole lot of experience in the cabinet, so I think we will all have to wait and see."
During the election campaign, McCuaig-Boyd voiced her opinion about some issues facing the province. During a debate, she said she would be an advocate to improve the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and she is in favour of bringing in a progressive tax, as well as looking at corporate tax structures, according to the Fairview Post.
When asked how she would diversify the province, she responded by admitting it's a question she had not been briefed on.
In March, when she became the NDP candidate in her riding, she spoke about the need for Alberta to wean itself off oil and gas revenues.
"I think we have to come up with a system where it's not going to be fluctuating every time the oil and gas prices go up and down," she told the Fairview Post. "In my whole lifetime, that's all I remember, I've been through these things a few times, the up and down and I think it's just wrong."