Executive Council of Alberta

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The Executive Council of Alberta, or the Cabinet of Alberta, is the Province of Alberta's provincial equivalent to the Executive Council (Canada) or Cabinet of Canada although smaller in size. The government of the province of Alberta is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy with a unicameral legislature—the Legislative Assembly, which consists of 87 members elected first past the post (FPTP) from single-member constituencies.[1] The Executive Council of Alberta is officially headed by the Lieutenant-Governor, as representative of the Queen in Right of Alberta and is referred to as the Governor-in-Council. Although the lieutenant governor is technically the most powerful person in Alberta, he is in reality a figurehead whose actions are restricted by custom and constitutional convention. The government is therefore headed by the premier. The current premier is Dave Hancock, who was sworn in as the 15th premier on March 23, 2014. The premier is a member of the Legislative Assembly, and he draws all the members of his Cabinet from among the members of the Legislative Assembly. The legislative powers in the province however, lie with the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Its government resembles that of the other Canadian provinces. The capital of the province is Edmonton, where the Alberta Legislative Building is located. Government is conducted after the Westminster model.

Government of Alberta[edit]

See also: List of Alberta Premiers, List of Alberta general elections and Executive Council of Alberta
Image looking west down Jasper Avenue showing the major financial centre in Edmonton
Jasper Avenue, a hub of major offices and the financial centres in Edmonton.

The executive powers in the province lie with the Premier of Alberta and the Cabinet of Alberta or the Executive Council of Alberta. The legislative powers in the province lie with the Legislature, which consists of two components: the Queen, represented by the Lieutenant-Governor, and the Legislative Assembly.

Legislative powers[edit]

The Legislative Assembly meets in the Alberta Legislature Building in the provincial capital, Edmonton. The Legislative Assembly consists of 87 members, elected first past the post from single-member electoral districts.[2]

Executive powers[edit]

Executive Council of Alberta[edit]

Almost always made up of members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, the Cabinet of Alberta is similar in structure and role to the Cabinet of Canada while being smaller in size. As federal and provincial responsibilities differ there are a number of different portfolios between the federal and provincial governments.

The Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, as representative of the Queen in Right of Alberta, heads the council, and is referred to as the Governor-in-Council. Other members of the Cabinet, who advise, or minister, the vice-regal, are selected by the Premier of Alberta and appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor. Most cabinet ministers are the head of a ministry, but this is not always the case. In the construct of constitutional monarchy and responsible government, the ministerial advice tendered is typically binding, though it is important to note that, despite appearances of the contrary, the Royal Prerogative belongs to the Crown, not to any of the ministers,[3]

As at the federal level the most important Cabinet post after that of the leader is Minister of Finance. Today the next most powerful position is certainly the health portfolio which has a vast budget and is of central political import. Other powerful portfolios include Education and Energy.

Current Cabinet[edit]

The current ministry has been in place since May 6, 2014, following Ric McIver's resignation. Members are listed in order of precedence[4]

Portfolio Minister Riding
Premier, President of Executive Council, and Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education Dave Hancock Edmonton-Whitemud
President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Finance Doug Horner Spruce Grove-St. Albert
Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Thomas Lukaszuk Edmonton-Castle Downs
International and Intergovernmental Relations Cal Dallas Red Deer-South
Energy Diana McQueen Drayton Valley-Devon
Health Fred Horne Edmonton-Rutherford
Municipal Affairs Ken Hughes Calgary-West
Education, Ministerial Liaison to the Canadian Forces Jeff Johnson Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater
Agriculture and Rural Development, Deputy House Leader Verlyn Olson Wetaskiwin-Camrose
Justice, Solicitor General, Deputy House Leader Jonathan Denis Calgary-Acadia
Service Alberta Doug Griffiths Battle River-Wainwright
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Government House Leader Robin Campbell West Yellowhead
Culture Heather Klimchuk Edmonton-Glenora
Aboriginal Relations, and Deputy House Leader Frank Oberle, Jr. Peace River
Human Services Manmeet Bhullar Calgary-Greenway
Transportation Wayne Drysdale Grande Prairie-Wapiti
Infrastructure Vacant
Tourism, Parks and Recreation Richard Starke Vermilion-Lloydminster

Former Cabinets[edit]

Ministries[edit]

In Alberta, the ministries' names have two forms, often coexisting. The usual one is "Alberta X", (e.g. Alberta Education) the older style is "Ministry of X" (e.g. Ministry of Finance). The newer style without the word "ministry" resembles the federal government's Federal Identity Program and the federal naming scheme, except in reverse order. Federal ministries and departments are usually "X Canada" (e.g. Environment Canada).

With every new cabinet ministries can be created or disbanded, renamed or gain or lose responsibilities. Some ministries such as finance or health are common to all provincial governments and are comparable to similar ministries or departments at the federal level or indeed even in other countries. However, some ministries are quite distinct to Alberta, such as the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development which oversees the management of public lands.

These are the current ministries as of 2012, listed alphabetically, with a short description and any notes to changes to that ministry's mandate.

Ministry Notes
Aboriginal Relations Created 2008. Responsible for Aboriginal affairs. Also responsible for the Métis Settlements Appeals Tribunal, the Métis Settlements Ombudsman and the First Nations Development Fund.
Agriculture and Rural Development Responsible for agriculture; responsibility for rural development added 2008.
Culture Created 2008. Responsible for culture, community development, the voluntary sector, museums and heritage sites.

Also responsible for Human Rights and Citizenship Commission; Human Rights Citizenship and Multiculturalism Fund; Foundation for the Arts; Alberta Historical Resources Foundation; Wild Rose Foundation; and Government House Foundation.

Education Responsible for Education in Alberta.
Energy Responsible for energy policy.
Enterprise and Advanced Education
Environment Responsible for environmental policy.
Executive Council The ministry which organizes, and reports directly to, cabinet.
Finance Responsible for economic policy. Gained responsibility for the Regulatory Review Secretariat, the Alberta Economic Development Authority, and the Northern Alberta Development Council in 2008.
Health Responsible for health policy.
Human Services
Infrastructure Created 2008. Responsible for infrastructure planning, and building and managing government-owned infrastructure. Also responsible for the administration of water/wastewater and other municipal infrastructure grants and the Natural Gas Rebate Program.
International and Intergovernmental Relations Responsible for relations with other governments in Canada and internationally In 2008 it lost responsibility for Aboriginal relations and added responsibility for investment attraction.
Justice and Solicitor General Responsible for the justice system.
Municipal Affairs Responsible for local government in Alberta. In 2008 lost responsibility for housing and the voluntary sector.
Service Alberta Responsible for the civil service. In 2008 lost responsibility for the Regulatory Review Secretariat.
Solicitor General and Public Security Responsible for public security.
Sustainable Resource Development Responsible for Crown land.
Tourism, Parks and Recreation Responsible for tourism, and provincial parks. In 2008 lost responsibility for culture and community development, museums, heritage sites, and reporting entities now in Culture and Community Spirit, as well as the First Nations Development Fund now in Aboriginal Relations.
Transportation Created 2008. Responsible for planning, building and managing the provincial highway network, including the administration of municipal transportation grants.

Also responsible for the Transportation Safety Board.

Treasury Board

Finance[edit]

Alberta has had the highest annual economic growth in Canada since the early 1990s.

According to a Statistics Canada report, Alberta's economic growth in 2012 was 3.9 percent. That is less than Alberta's growth in 2011 at 5.3 per cent but still higher than the rest of Canada in both years (Canada 2012 1.8 percent; Canada 2011:2.6 per cent).[5]

Albertans are the lowest-taxed people in Canada, mostly because of the province's considerable oil and gas income as well as the more conservative financial philosophies of successive governments. It is also the only province in Canada where there is no provincial sales tax.[6] Unlike the other provinces, which use a progressive income tax regime, Alberta uses a flat rate income tax (currently at 10%), while equal for all, it also puts a higher burden of taxes on the lower-classes versus the upper-classes than found elsewhere. Alberta is one of few provinces that consistently has not received equalization payments from the federal government since 1962[7] (the others being British Columbia and (until 2008) Ontario, the original benchmark provinces). Alberta is now the largest net contributor to the program, which is intended to ensure that all provinces are able to provide similar levels of public services. The province's wealth is largely due to the abundance of natural resources, as a result Alberta is the only province in Canada that has (recently) eliminated its provincial debt.[8]

Budget[edit]

The Alberta government's operational expense for 2013-2014 is $CDN 36.4 billion. Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner, announced an operational shortfall of CDN $1.97 billion (2013-2014). The estimated deficit was C$3.9 billion for 2012-2013. This is the sixth consecutive annual deficit for Alberta, Canada’s wealthiest province.[9] Because of the bitumen bubble, with Alberta’s Western Canadian Select (WTS) (a blend of heavy oil produced from bitumen) selling for a larger discount to sweet light West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil and sweet, light Brent benchmark oil prices, there was a marked decrease in bitumen royalties and an accompanying drop in "resource revenue of $6.2 billion from the 2012 budget’s forecast for 2013-14." According to Premier Redford, the oil and gas industry in Alberta funds 30 percent of the budget in 2012.[10]

Taxation[edit]

The provincial government's revenue, although often described as predominantly coming from the province's resource base, actually is derived from a variety of sources. Non-renewable resource revenue provided the government with 24 percent of its revenue in 2010-11 with about the same coming from individual income tax, 14 per cent from grants from the federal government, and about eight percent coming from both corporations and the government's own business activities. (source: the Government of Alberta website) Alberta is the only province in Canada without a provincial sales tax (see also Sales taxes in Canada).

Government revenue comes mainly from royalties on non-renewable natural resources (30.4%), personal income taxes (22.3%), corporate and other taxes (19.6%), and grants from the federal government primarily for infrastructure projects (9.8%).[11] Albertans are the lowest-taxed people in Canada, and Alberta is the only province in Canada without a provincial sales tax (but residents are still subject to the federal sales tax, the Goods and Services Tax of 5%). It is also the only Canadian province to have a flat tax for personal income taxes, which is 10% of taxable income.[12]

The Alberta personal income tax system maintains a progressive character by granting residents personal tax exemptions of $16,977, in addition to a variety of tax deductions for persons with disabilities, students, and the aged.[13] Alberta's municipalities and school jurisdictions have their own governments which (usually) work in co-operation with the provincial government.

Alberta also privatized alcohol distribution. The privatization increased outlets from 304 stores to 1,726; 1,300 jobs to 4,000 jobs; and 3,325 products to 16,495 products.[14] Tax revenue also increased from $400 million to $700 million.

Politics of Alberta[edit]

Alberta's elections tend to yield results which are much more conservative than those of other Canadian provinces. Alberta has traditionally had three political parties, the Progressive Conservatives ("Conservatives" or "Tories"), the Liberals, and the social democratic New Democrats. A fourth party, the strongly conservative Social Credit Party, was a power in Alberta for many decades, but fell from the political map after the Progressive Conservatives came to power in 1971. Since that time, no other political party has governed Alberta. In fact, only four parties have governed Alberta: the Liberals, from 1905 to 1921; the United Farmers of Alberta, from 1921 to 1935; the Social Credit Party, from 1935 to 1971, and the currently governing Progressive Conservative Party, from 1971 to the present.

Alberta has had occasional surges in separatist sentiment. Even during the 1980s, when these feelings were at their strongest, there has never been enough interest in secession to initiate any major movements or referendums. There are several currently active groups wishing to promote the independence of Alberta in some form.

In the 2008 provincial election, held on March 3, 2008, the Progressive Conservative Party was re-elected as a majority government with 72 of 83 seats, the Alberta Liberal Party was elected as the Official Opposition with nine members, and two Alberta New Democratic Party members were elected.[15]

The April 23, 2012 election returned the Progressive Conservative Party to government, making leader Alison Redford Alberta's first elected female premier.[16] In the 2012 provincial election, held on April 23, 2012, the Progressive Conservative Party was re-elected as a majority government and party leader Alison Redford retained as premier with 43.9% of the vote and 61 of 87 seats (The Legislative Assembly added 4 seats, increasing the total to 87, with the 2012 election), the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith was elected as the Official Opposition with 34.3% of the vote and 17 members (replacing the Liberal Party), five Liberals were elected with 9.9% of the vote and four NDP members were elected with 9.8% of the vote.[17]

Federal-provincial governance: decentralization and devolution[edit]

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the federal government became more centralist, and Canada entered a stage of "conflictual federalism" that lasted from 1970 to 1984. The National Energy Program sparked a great deal of bitterness against the federal government in Alberta; as well, the federal government involved itself in disputes over oil with Newfoundland and Saskatchewan.[18] With the passage of the Constitution Act, 1982 through the addition of section 92A to the Constitution Act, 1867, the provinces were given more power with respect to their natural resources.

Between 1982 and 1992 the federal government favoured devolution of powers to the provinces, culminating in the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords. After a merger with the heavily devolutionist Canadian Alliance, the new Conservative Party of Canada under Stephen Harper has continued the same stance.[19]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Elected Members of the Assembly.
  2. ^ Elected Members of the Assembly
  3. ^ Neitsch, Alfred Thomas (2008). "A Tradition of Vigilance: The Role of Lieutenant Governor in Alberta". Canadian Parliamentary Review (Ottawa: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association) 30 (4): 23. Retrieved 22 May 2009. 
  4. ^ "Premier Alison Redford shuffles cabinet". CBC News. December 6, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ Toneguzzi, Mario (29 April 2013). "Alberta forecast to lead Canadian economic growth in 2014: Real GDP to increase 4.2 per cent". Calgary Herald. 
  6. ^ Taxation - provincial sales tax
  7. ^ "A Short History of Equalization, part 1: 1930-2006". thoughtundermined.com. 2012-05-12. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  8. ^ An indication of the vulnerability of having an economy based on the export of raw resources is the fact that only a few years after major cutbacks on social spending had been imposed to eliminate the debt that the Conservative government had racked up, oil prices went up so much that the government surplus in a single year was enough to pay off the previous debt single-handed. (As well, it should be pointed out the debt had been incurred in part by keeping income and corporate taxes low, and then was paid off with cuts to social services needed by the poor.) Government of Alberta - Elimination of provincial debt
  9. ^ van Loon, Jeremy (7 March 2013). "Alberta Forecasts C$1.97 Billion Budget Deficit". Bloomberg. 
  10. ^ Alberta Ministry of Finance (2013). Alberta's Budget 2013 (Report). Treasury Board and Finance. http://budget2013.alberta.ca/.
  11. ^ "Budget 2009, Building On Our Strength". Government of Alberta. Archived from the original on May 3, 2008. Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  12. ^ "What are the income tax rates in Canada for 2009?". Canada Revenue Agency. Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Alberta Tax and Credits". Government of Alberta. Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  14. ^ "The Right Way to Sell Booze in New Brunswick". Taxpayer. Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  15. ^ "2008 Alberta Election Results". CTV. Archived from the original on 2008-03-08. Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  16. ^ "2012 Alberta Election Results". CTV. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  17. ^ Provincial General Election April 23, 2012
  18. ^ Dyck 2012, pp. 416–420
  19. ^ Banting, Keith G.; Simeon, Richard (1983). And no one cheered: federalism, democracy, and the Constitution Act. Toronto: Methuen. pp. 14, 16. ISBN 0-458-95950-2. 

External links[edit]

See also[edit]