Rachel Notley sworn in as Alberta premier, reveals cabinet

Rachel Notley, the NDP leader who toppled the Progressive Conservatives’ 44-year grip on power on May 5, has officially become the province's premier.

Notley becomes province's 17th premier in front of crowd of thousands in Edmonton

Rachel Notley has been sworn in as the 17th premier of Alberta in a ceremony that took place in front of an enthusiastic crowd of thousands in Edmonton this afternoon. 

"Today, we open a new chapter in the story of Alberta," Notley told the crowd.

The 51-year-old former labour lawyer, who led the NDP to a 54-seat majority earlier this month, was sworn in by Chief Justice Catherine Fraser on the steps of the Alberta legislature. 

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. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)
"This ceremony is an important milestone in life and history of our province," Fraser told the crowd.

The public was invited to take part in the event, which drew a crowd that packed the grounds of the legislature despite the hot temperatures. At times during the ceremony, Notley found herself drowned out by the crowd chanting her name. Afterwards, she said was "flabbergasted" by how many people showed up. 

"I'm humbled, truly humbled, by your trust and by the job at hand — and by our amazing potential."​

Notley was also sworn in as the province's international and intergovernmental affairs minister. The other 11 members of the cabinet, some of whom are handling multiple portfolios in the slimmed-down cabinet, were also sworn in:

  • Joe Ceci - Finance/Treasury Board president
  • Sarah Hoffman - Health/Seniors.
  • Kathleen Ganley - Justice/Aboriginal Affairs
  • David Eggen - Education/Culture and Tourism
  • Margaret Mccuaig-Boyd - Energy
  • Shannon Phillips - Environment and Parks/Status of Women
  • Brian Mason -  Infrastructure/Transportation
  • Deron Bilous - Municipal Affairs, Service Alberta
  • Lori Sigurdson - Innovation and Advanced Education/Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour
  • Rachel Notley -- International and Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Oneil Carlier - Agriculture/Forestry
  • Irfan Sabir - Human Services

The new cabinet is heavily weighted towards Edmonton, where the NDP saw their strongest support during the election. Six ministers, including Notley, represent ridings in the city, compared with three from Calgary and another three from the rest of the province.

Notley, Mason, Eggen and Bilous — the party's only incumbent MLAs — were all assigned high-profile portfolios. Mason, a 15-year veteran of the legislature and the party's former leader, will also serve as government house leader.

The newly minted premier highlighted the fact that the new cabinet contained an equal number of women and men; she said the new government's make-up was a better reflection of the people of Alberta. 

"Young and old, gay and straight, and more women than ever before," Notley said. "My friends, it is springtime in Alberta and a fresh wind is blowing."

The significance of the first NDP government in Alberta history led to some emotional moments for Mason, who toiled for years in opposition.

"When we sang O Canada I was choking back tears," he said. "So many things that we worked for for so many years are going to come to pass."

After the ceremony, Notley circulated throughout the crowd, chatting and shaking hands in the summer heat.

Friends drove from Calgary 

The atmosphere was much like a party as people cheered, clapped and shouted at various parts of the ceremony.

Florence Ellis said she wanted to witness what she called an historic day.

Biftu Mohammed (right) and her friends Kowther Hassan and Biftu Yusuf drove from Calgary to see Notley get sworn-in. (CBC )
"I wanted to come and sit here and be part of it," she said.

Paddy Murphy, 78, said he always votes NDP but wasn't expecting Notley to win May 5, He expected the Progressive Conservatives to win yet another majority government.

"Finally at my age got to see a miracle," he said, with a laugh.

Michael Paulson brought his two-year-old daughter to the legislature. He liked that Notley decided to hold the ceremony outside.

"It brings politics back to the people." he said. "It's not just the standard old politicians. It's a new wave of politicians that are here."

Biftu Mohammed drove up from Calgary with two of her friends to watch the ceremony.

"Just excited to celebrate the new government," she said. "I'm just happy to see a government that represents me."

Depth of talent 

Notley said creating her cabinet was a challenge, telling reporters after the ceremony she could have appointed a complete second group of ministers from the depth of talent in her caucus.

The fact that she and five of her 11 cabinet ministers are from Edmonton has already been criticized online. Notley said she did her best to take many factors into consideration.

"There's four incumbents in Edmonton already and it was important to me to ensure gender balance and other issues," she said. "Going forward we'll see if this properly reflects regional balance and we'll continue to tweak it."

Notley said she appointed a minister to be in charge for the status of women because it was important to her.

"We have some gaps that we need to fill in Alberta and we need a government that understands ensuring women's rights are addressed," she said.

Eight members of Notley's cabinet are new to provincial politics. One of the rookies, Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd, will be responsible for the royalty review promised by Notley. 

A former teacher and school administrator, McCuaig-Boyd is the former vice-president of the Fairview Campus of Grande Prairie Regional College. 

She plans to start meeting with people in the energy industry. Her message is that "they don't have to worry." 

"I'm very collaborative, I'm very pragmatic, [a] great listener," she said. "My door's going to be open. It's all going to be open and transparent as we move along.

 Notley and her cabinet are scheduled to have their first meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Calgary.

All remaining MLAs will be sworn in on June 1.