UCP undertakes rapidfire transfer to power
Premier-designate Jason Kenney announced the staffers who will run his transition team and soon-to-be premier’s office Monday.
Jamie Huckabay will serve as the premier’s chief of staff. This is not a big leap for Huckabay, who served as Kenney’s chief of staff while he was Opposition leader. Originally from Lethbridge, Huckabay also worked as a staffer during Kenney’s PC leadership bid in 2016-17.
Huckabay, who boasts a Master’s degree in international relations and economics from Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from Oxford University, also has experience in the tech sector. He was a director for Taplytics and vice-president at Gerson Lehrman Group, a business consulting platform.
Kenney has retained another loyal soldier in Howard Anglin. The highly-regarded CPC veteran will serve as his principal secretary. Anglin was Kenney’s chief of staff when he was federal minister of immigration and also served as a deputy chief of staff in Stephen Harper’s PMO.
Anglin is a constitutional lawyer who spent years working at Wiley Rein LLP, one of the largest firms in Washington D.C., and once served as a clerk in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The chief of staff role is focused on management and day-to-day operations, whereas the principal secretary position requires someone with a high-level policy focus to advise the premier. In his news release, Kenney bolstered Anglin as “the administration’s most senior political advisor.”
Former B.C. premier Christy Clark’s ex-director of communications Katy Merrifield will be Kenney’s executive director of communication and planning. Merrifield was an adviser on current B.C. Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson’s leadership campaign and the B.C. Liberal Party’s executive director until she resigned last July, citing personal reasons.
Christine Myatt was tapped for the premier’s office’s other top communications job. Myatt moves from her role as the party’s director of strategic communications to Kenney’s press secretary and deputy director of communications.
David Knight Legg, a friend of Jason Kenney from Lethbridge, will head up the UCP’s “orderly and seamless transition” to government. He was previously based in Hong Kong, where he was the global head of strategy for Commonwealth Bank. He has also worked for the notorious consultancy group McKinsey and Company and has a PhD from Yale.
Kenney called the group “talented” and “passionate” and lauded its mix of public and private-sector experience.
“I have no doubt that together, this team will help to deliver on our promise to get Alberta back to work,” said Kenney in a news release on Monday.
The party still has a lot of positions to fill when it comes to staffing ministers’ offices. Kenney told reporters last week he hopes to strike the right balance between continuity and renewal in his staffing choices. Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid reports that Kenney may buck tradition and begin appointing ministerial chiefs of staff and communications heads before the actual ministers are put in place.
Political scientists are tossing around names of UCP MLAs who may be in line for one of those coveted cabinet posts. Some contenders include the UCP’s deputy leader Leela Aheer, former UCP leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer, 13-year energy sector worker Sonya Savage, the UCP’s former finance critic Drew Barnes, interim PC Leader Ric McIver, and two-term MLA Prasad Panda.
When it comes to Kenney’s plans for a $30-million energy war room to combat what he calls misinformation from journalists and environmental activists about Alberta’s oilsands, the premier-designate will be looking to the private sector for talent. He said wants to build a team that has a “creative” approach to communications.
Notley and Kenney meet, NDP leader pledges smooth transition
Premier Rachel Notley met with Kenney at Government House Thursday to discuss the transition of government.
The premier — Notley retains the official title until April 30th’s swearing-in ceremony — said Kenney will soon learn that governing is harder than being in opposition.
Notley told reporters after the meeting that getting the pipeline built will require “considered diplomacy [and] strategic pressure … not grandstanding for the benefit of political outcomes.”
Asked whether she plans to stay on as leader of the official Opposition for the full four-year term, or would be open to the party seeking out a successor, Notley called the question “a little bit premature” and re-affirmed her “intention to lead Alberta’s official Opposition and to stand up for the things that we fought for in the election.”
The change in government means pink slips for partisan employees. Approximately 150 political staffers cleaned out their offices last week to make way for the incoming UCP team. Among those who lost their jobs are the premier’s office staff and communications and policy researchers from ex-cabinet ministers’ offices. High profile names include Notey’s issues manager Jeremy Nolais, spokesperson Cheryl Oates, and chief of staff Nathan Rotman.