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Rachel Notley to be sworn in as Alberta premier Sunday

Rachel Notley will be sworn in as Alberta’s next premier Sunday afternoon, alongside a slimmed down cabinet, as the NDP officially takes the reins of the province after toppling the Progressive Conservative dynasty.

Brian Mason, David Eggen and Deron Bilous likely to receive cabinet posts

Alberta premier-designate and NDP Leader Rachel Notley, centre, Calgary East MLA Robyn Luff and her daughter Vesper, and Calgary-Fort NDP MLA Joe Ceci. (Mike Ridewood/Canadian Press)

Rachel Notley will be sworn in as Alberta's next premier Sunday afternoon, alongside a slimmed down cabinet, as the NDP officially takes the reins of the province after toppling the Progressive Conservative dynasty.

CBC News will livestream the swearing-in and cabinet announcement online, starting at 2 p.m. MT.

The party won a 54-seat majority in the provincial election earlier this month, while the Wildrose party held on as the Official Opposition.

Along with Notley, 11 cabinet members will also be sworn in. The premier-designate has said she has no plans to merge any of Alberta's existing ministries, but did say some ministers will be given more than one portfolio.

The rest of the caucus will be sworn in on June 1 and the party's first speech from the throne is scheduled for June 15.

From the start, Notley has defended her rookie MLAs, 49 of whom have never sat in the legislature before, insisting she has many talented people to pick from.

"I have far too many people who are skilled to select from, quite honestly, and I'm so proud that they reflect the diversity of this province," she said.

But with just four previously elected members in the the new caucus, including herself, who among them will be familiar with the inner workings of government?

"There's people with interesting backgrounds, a lot of common sense, a lot of smarts but nobody with that sort of track record of having managed large things well," said David Taras, a political analyst from Mount Royal University.

"They don't have a lot of people who have managed government departments, who have managed sizeable businesses, who have run social agencies that are large."

'That's the gift of our system'

Taras pointed out that our democratic system is founded on the very principle that anyone can hold political office.

"The average person can come in and apply common sense to common-sense problems," he said.

"That's the gift of our system."

Balancing that gift with hard reality will be tricky for Notley, who is likely keen to show the province and the country that the NDP can govern effectively after more than four decades of Tory rule.

Notley is widely expected to appoint a small cabinet, which may be her best chance to allay concerns about inexperience. Her choices will almost certainly include her three colleagues who have that now-coveted experience inside the legislature — Deron Bilous, David Eggen and Brian Mason.

Taras said that trusted trio, led by long-time MLA and former leader Mason, will be encouraged to do a lot of the heavy lifting, and will likely be given big portfolios - finance, health, education, social services or transportation.
Former NDP leader Brian Mason, pictured here inside the legislature, is one of just four MLAs, including Notley, who have sat in the legislature. (Alberta Legislature )

"If you're Brian Mason, you probably call the shots," said Taras. "He's the lion in the cabinet who basically will help manage the government."

Notley is expected to take a big piece of the cabinet pie as well - perhaps energy, to show industry she's serious about her willingness to work with the oil and gas industry.

Reward those who defeated giants

Notley, as many premiers have done before, will likely want to reward candidates who defeated Tory cabinet ministers.

The enviable problem she has is, there is so many of them.

Dr. Bob Turner took down former Edmonton mayor, Stephen Mandel, the health minister under outgoing premier Jim Prentice.
Dr. Bob Turner has been an oncologist for the past three decades. He was named physician of the year in the Edmonton zone in 2007. (Alberta NDP)

"He's obvious for health minister," said Taras.

And Edmonton school board trustee Sarah Hoffman defeated Minister of Human Services Heather Klimchuk -- to name just two.
Sarah Hoffman (Alberta NDP)

Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean, 28, highlights another dilemma Notley faces — smart, keen MLAs who have absolutely no political experience. McLean started her own law practice last year but will likely not be appointed justice minister over older, more experienced lawyers who were also elected in the orange wave.

Then, there's Edmonton centre MLA David Shepherd. Instead of taking down a Tory, he took down the longest serving opposition MLA, Liberal Laurie Blakeman.
David Shepherd was elected in Edmonton-Centre has worked as a musician and public servant, and is an avid cyclist, according to his NDP biography. (‏@DShepYEG/Twitter)

Taras said Shepherd is an obvious choice for cabinet.

"He's young, he's the giant killer, he's the new face, it's perfect, you need those faces."

Balancing regional powers

Another challenge Notley faces is how to represent and reflect the province around the cabinet table.

"You'd want to make sure that small-city Alberta is well-represented. They certainly came through for the party, you want to make sure those people had visibility," said Taras, adding that the MLA for Lethbridge-West, Shannon Phillips, will likely be offered a cabinet post.

Taras expects Notley to give a nod to the northern part of the province by appointing Margaret Mccuaig-Boyd, the former vice-president of Grande Prairie College and the new MLA for Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, as advanced education minister.  

"Her bread and butter is Calgary, Edmonton, and the smaller cities. The pickings get thinner in rural Alberta," Taras said.  

The two parties of one

Greg Clark? It's not unheard of, certainly in recent Alberta politics, to welcome the leader of another party into the fold. Clark is keen and smart, or as Taras put it, "kind of like the ideal next-door neighbour."

If he's offered a cabinet post, it would spell the end of the Alberta Party but could give Clark a powerful voice in helping to change the province.

Then there's the business of electing a new speaker, a position held since 2012 by defeated Tory MLA Gene Zwozdesky.

David Swann is widely seen as a possible choice, since his party is now in the hinterland, and he's one of just a few who could carry the mantle effectively. The legislature will meet to elect a new speaker June 11.

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