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Kenney shuffles Alberta's cabinet, creating new positions, demoting Aheer

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Premier Jason Kenney announced a host of changes to his cabinet Thursday, including a number of new positions and the demotion of a longtime minister who was openly critical of her boss.

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Leela Aheer is out of cabinet and the responsibilities of the Ministry of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women will now be split.

Whitney Issik, MLA for Calgary-Glenmore, becomes the Status of Women Associate Minister under the Ministry of Culture and Status of Women and chief government whip.

Calgary-North MLA Muhammad Yaseen, the backbencher who introduced a private member’s bill that would have made rodeo Alberta’s official sport, will become Associate Minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism, under the Ministry of Labour and Immigration.

Ron Orr, MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka, becomes the Minister of Culture. Part of his work will be to address recommendation 25 of the Fair Deal Panel to “affirm Alberta’s cultural, economic and political uniqueness in law and government policy,” according to a government news release. Orr spoke out in May to defend Kenney, saying he believes the premier “is the leader God raised up for these times.”

Rajan Sawhney, MLA for Calgary-North East and formerly the Community and Social Services Minister, will take the reins of Transportation Minister from Ric McIver, who remains the Municipal Affairs Minister.

Two of Kenney’s most embattled ministers, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, kept their files.

Thursday’s changes come after Kenney faced months of turmoil inside his party over COVID-19 restrictions –- leading to caucus booting two members critical of Kenney’s leadership  –- and controversy after cabinet ministers were photographed dining with the premier outdoors on a patio apparently against the province’s health rules.

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Both Sawhney and Aheer recently called out the premier after he violated provincial COVID-19 rules during a dinner party in early June. Aheer demanded an apology from the premier, and Sawhney expressed frustration over the case.

Tanya Fir is back in cabinet after being shuffled out last year, taking on a role previously held by Grant Hunter -– Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction.

Nate Horner, MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, becomes the Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development, under the Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation. Under Minister Doug Schweitzer, Horner will work on initiatives like expanding rural broadband internet and irrigation networks, a government release said.

Mike Ellis, MLA for Calgary-West and currently the chief government whip, takes over from Jason Luan as Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

Jason Luan, meanwhile, becomes the Minister of Community and Social Services, taking over from Sawhney.

It’s the second time Kenney has shuffled cabinet since he took office in 2019.

Last August, Kenney gave Kaycee Madu the justice portfolio, and moved Doug Schweitzer to the newly created Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, shifting out Fir who was heading economic development and trade and tourism.

Tracy Allard was appointed municipal affairs minister in that shuffle, but she resigned in January 2021 amid the “Alohagate” scandal after she went to Hawaii over Christmas despite provincial recommendations against travel. McIver had been holding the transportation portfolio as well as municipal affairs since then.

Kenney said at the swearing in ceremony that the government will renew its focus on the economic recovery plan. “Now this is a time of renewal for Alberta, and that requires a renewal in the government’s leadership team,” he said.

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