It’s nothing new or shocking for governments of every stripe to make political appointments to existing jobs or even invented ones. That’s just part of the process, but a recent political appointment by the ruling PC government has raised eyebrows in agriculture industry circles. It was announced that former agriculture minister Evan Berger, who was defeated in his southern Alberta riding in the last election, will become a special adviser to Agriculture Deputy Minister John Knapp. On the surface this seems an odd appointment where your former boss becomes your employee. What caused even more ruminating was that the appointment was quickly cleared by the ethics commissioner under a special ruling.
What seemed curious was why the highly respected deputy minister, a 30-year government veteran who has professionally served the department in various capacities from Cardston to Fairview, would need advice from someone who was the minister for a mere six months. From known memory this type of appointment has never occurred before. It would be hard to believe that this was the deputy minister’s idea. The present minister may also be wondering why they need highly paid advice from a former minister. So what gives?
What gives is the Wildrose Party sweep of all of the rural southern Alberta ridings, which seems to have annoyed the ruling PC Party who considered the south its fiefdom. It would now seem the PC Party political braintrust is sending a message to voters in southern Alberta. Apparently they are getting a political overseer (I wanted to use the word commissar, but that seemed too harsh) to look over the political interests of the PC government in the rural south. It’s rumoured that the former minister will even be opening his own official office in southern Alberta.
Making a political appointment to look after a particular region is nothing new for governments, but such folks usually work directly out of the premier’s office and are not embedded in a government department pretending to give non-partisan advice to a deputy minister. Perhaps it’s also a message to the department itself.
You can add this appointment to the recent closure of a government extended care facility in Carmangay and the cancellation of the police college project in Fort MacLeod. One begins to suspect that the ruling PC government has a plan for Wildrose southern Alberta.