By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Albertans can be rest assured Premier Designate Rachel Notley and the provincial NDPs are ready, willing and more than able to take on the leadership role of the province.
After over 40 years of rule, the provincial Progressive Conservatives are no longer the big cheese or Grand Poobahs of the province.
Last Tuesday, Notley held a media teleconference, which Sunny South News was a part of, to discuss the transition of power from the PCs to the NDPs in the coming weeks.
“I had a very pleasant meeting with Premier Prentice at Government House. I’m very grateful for the co-operation that we are receiving, as we prepare to assume office,” said Notley, adding Prentice offered insight and advice, both of which were very valuable.
The premier designate said she talked to Prentice about the need to ensure stability and he offered his advice and his willingness to provide advice in the days going forward.
“It was a good discussion.”
Notley added she also thanked Prentice for his service to the province and wished him and his family the very best.
During her media teleconference, Notley confirmed she will retain Richard Dicerni, the current head of the Alberta public service, in his present role. Dicerni will continue to serve as Deputy Minister for Executive Council in the new Alberta government.
“After a period of political uncertainty and frequent changes of priorities and leadership, Alberta is returning to stable majority government. I have been very impressed by the professionalism of the Alberta public service, and by their dedication and commitment to making this change of government work smoothly. Richard Dicerni has a distinguished record of public service under Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic governments. He will provide our province’s public service with the non-partisan, professional leadership our province needs,” she noted.
According to Notley, she has also asked the outgoing government of Alberta to extend the school budget deadline by a month until the end of June.
“Our government was elected on a commitment to fund enrolment growth and this extension of their budget deadline will permit us to act on this matter in good time for next year,” Notley explained.
Timing is tight and decisions have to be made for September, Notley said, and that notion is understood.
“That’s why we knew they needed to be given a little bit more time in order to put together their plans.”
Notley said transition work is going along very well, as she has been reviewing an enormous amount of briefing material prepared by the government’s public service and is working on finalizing the new cabinet.
“Once the cabinet is finalized, we will announce our plans for the Legislature and the new budget,” she said.
As for the new government’s first piece of legislation, Notley noted, it’s really important to have a cabinet first before making those decisions.
“My plan is to announce, in the coming days, the timing for the establishment of the cabinet. We will then meet and out of that meeting there will be additional information,” said Notley.
With a new government taking over the reins — the transition will take some time.
“You have to appoint a cabinet. Then the cabinet, being new to the job, needs an opportunity to review the briefing books and we need a chance to meet together in order to refine and prioritize our decisions. Obviously, with reference to our platform but also with reference to the information we get with the briefings on transition,” she said.
For the past 40 years, Notley added, the people that have been elected were the people that were in charge before the election.
“Typically, one would expect they knew what was in the briefing books before the election was called. In our case, we have a responsibility, as part of transition, to review a mountain of information and make sure we’re making the best and most thoughtful decisions that we can and to come together as a cabinet,” said Notley, adding she suspects the transition will be moving along quite quickly.
But, Notley said, we are doing our due diligence Albertans would expect of a new government.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta President Marle Roberts thanked Notley last week for keeping a campaign promise to support Alberta’s education system.
“By extending the deadlines for school boards to submit their annual budgets, the provincial government has provided critical breathing space for boards to prepare for the thousands of new students coming into our system,” Roberts said, in a media release.
“We are pleased to see the premier designate take this matter seriously and respond to it as a priority,” added Roberts, in the release.
According to the release, with more than 12,000 new students entering the system this fall, school boards have been scrambling to figure out how to supply the classroom space, teachers, and support staff necessary.
“It’s obvious to Albertans that we need to inject more funding into our schools,” Roberts said.