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Government of Alberta

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 eighty-seven members elected first past the post (FPTP) from single-member constituencies.[1] The Executive Council of Alberta is officially headed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, 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 Alison Redford who was elected as leader of the governing Progressive Conservatives on October 1, 2011. Redford was sworn in as the 14th Premier of Alberta on October 7, 2011. The Premier is a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and she draws all the members of her 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 provincial Legislative Building is located. The Premier and the cabinet are also members of the legislature. Government is conducted after the Westminster model.


Government of Alberta


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 Legislative Assembly of Alberta. The Legislative Assembly of Alberta is one of two components of the Legislature of Alberta, the other being the Queen, represented by the Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta.

Legislative powers

The Legislative Assembly of Alberta 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.

The government of Alberta is organized as a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral legislature. Its unicameral legislature—the Legislative Assembly—consists of eighty-seven members elected first past the post (FPTP) from single-member constituencies.[2] The Premier and the cabinet are also members of the legislature.

Executive powers

Executive Council of Alberta

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

The current ministry has been in place since February 4, 2013, following a small shuffle. Members are listed in order of precedence.[4]

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

Former Cabinets

Ministries

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

Lieutenant Governor of Alberta

As Canada's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state for the Government of Alberta. Her duties in Alberta are carried out by Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell. 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 Alison Redford who was elected as leader of the governing Progressive Conservatives on October 1, 2011. Redford was sworn in as the 14th Premier of Alberta on October 7, 2011. The Premier is a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and she draws all the members of her Cabinet from among the members of the Legislative Assembly.

The Lieutenant Governor of Alberta /lɛfˈtɛnənt/ is the viceregal representative in Alberta of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who operates distinctly within the province but is also shared equally with the nine other jurisdictions of Canada, as well as the other Commonwealth realms and any subdivisions thereof, and resides predominantly in her oldest realm, the United Kingdom. The Lieutenant Governor of Alberta is appointed in the same manner as the other provincial viceroys in Canada and is similarly tasked with carrying out most of the monarch's constitutional and ceremonial duties.[5] The present, and 17th, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta is Donald Ethell, who has served in the role since 11 May 2010.[6][7]

Elections

The maximum period between general elections of the assembly, as set by the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is five years,[8] but the premier controls the date of election and usually selects a date in the fourth or fifth year after the preceding election. Since 2011, Alberta has had fixed election date legislation, fixing the election to a date between March 1 and May 31 in the fourth calendar year following the preceding election.[9] Alberta has never had a minority government, so an election as a result of a vote of no confidence has never occurred.

To be a candidate for election to the assembly, a person must be a Canadian citizen older than 18 who has lived in Alberta for at least six months before the election. Senators, senators in waiting, members of the House of Commons, and criminal inmates are ineligible.[10]

Finance

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).[11]

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.[12] 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[13] (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.[14]

Budget

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.[15] 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.[16]

Taxation

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%).[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20] Tax revenue also increased from $400 million to $700 million.

Politics of Alberta

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.[21]

The April 23, 2012 election returned the Progressive Conservative Party to government, making leader Alison Redford Alberta's first elected female premier.[22] 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.[23]

Alberta Municipal Government Board

Locally municipal governments and school boards are elected and operate separately. Their boundaries do not necessarily coincide. Albertan municipalities raise a significant portion of their income through levying property taxes.[24] The value of assessed property in Alberta was approximately $727 billion in 2011.[25] Most real property is assessed according to its market value.[24] The exceptions to market value assessment are farmland, railways, machinery & equipment and linear property, all of which is assessed by regulated rates.[26] Depending on the property type, property owners may appeal a property assessment to their municipal 'Local Assessment Review Board', 'Composite Assessment Review Board,' or the Alberta Municipal Government Board.[24][27]

Municipalities in the Province of Alberta are part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), a civic advocacy group representing many Canadian municipalities. While it has no formal power it is a main national lobby group that negotiates with the Government of Canada's departments and agencies on behalf of municipalities, and administers a number of funds.

Federal-provincial governance: decentralization and devolution

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.[28] 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.[29]

Further reading

References

External links

  • Government of Alberta website
  • Government of Alberta Cabinet
  • Lieutenant Governor of Alberta

See also

Canadian politics portal
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