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Alberta government shuffles cabinet to fill gaps left by UCP leadership hopefuls

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s office has announced a cabinet shuffle, formally filling the gaps left by three UCP leadership hopefuls.

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Among the eight people looking to win a UCP leadership election and become premier, former ministers Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz, and Travis Toews resigned from cabinet, leaving vacancies temporarily filled by acting ministers.

A Tuesday afternoon news release from the premier’s office said Jason Nixon will be taking over for Toews as the finance minister and Treasury Board president.

Four backbenchers also got promoted, including Matt Jones, UCP MLA for Calgary-South East, who will take over for Schulz as children’s services minister, and Nicholas Milliken, MLA for Calgary-Currie, who will become infrastructure minister. Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk, MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, will be the status of women associate minister.

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Brad Rutherford, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont and previously the deputy government whip, will be chief government whip and minister without portfolio.

Whitney Issik, who was status of women associate minister, will take over from Nixon as environment and parks minister.

Previously heading the infrastructure ministry, Prasad Panda, will now sit in Sawhney’s former post as transportation minister.

Making the move to cabinet comes with a significant pay raise. Rank-and-file MLAs in Alberta earn a salary of $121,000, but ministers receive $181,000, while associate ministers, or ministers without portfolio, get $148,000.

Kenney said in the release the government’s focus is on providing stable and steady government to continue Alberta’s job creation and economic growth.

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“I’m confident that these changes to cabinet and the new members at the table will contribute to even stronger growth and prosperity in the future,” he said.

The UCP government’s last cabinet shuffle in February saw Kaycee Madu moved from the justice ministry to become labour and immigration minister, switching portfolios with Shandro. That move came after a third-party report found Madu tried to interfere in the administration of justice when he called Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee after receiving a traffic ticket, but he was unsuccessful.

While the UCP will choose its new leader Oct. 6, the Alberta legislature is not scheduled to sit again until Oct. 31.

Tuesday’s release also noted changes outside cabinet ministries, including those of Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard and Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely to the Treasury Board.

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has been appointed the chair of the community and families cabinet policy committee, and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has been appointed to the priorities implementation cabinet committee.

lijohnson@postmedia.com

twitter.com/reportrix

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