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Alberta replaces ag minister in shuffle

(Revised Jan. 14) — Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has named Drumheller-Stettler MLA Jack Hayden as his new minister of agriculture and rural development and dropped his predecessor entirely from cabinet.

Hayden, who had been Stelmach’s minister of infrastructure since 2008, farms at Endiang, about 75 km southeast of Stettler, and has previously served as a reeve and councillor for the County of Stettler.

Hayden left municipal politics in 2004 but went provincial in 2007, representing Alberta’s governing Tories in a byelection to replace the area’s retiring MLA, former provincial ag minister and deputy premier Shirley McClellan.

Hayden, before moving to provincial politics, served on the Prime Minister’s External Advisory Committee on Cities and Communities, and on the board of directors of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which named him to its roll of honour in 2006.

Hayden was also named Wednesday to the provincial Treasury Board, chaired by Lloydminster-area MLA Lloyd Snelgrove.

Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Broyce Jacobs, a cattle rancher from Mountain View, remains as parliamentary assistant for agriculture and rural development, a post to which he was named last September.

Other moves within key portfolios include the naming of Ted Morton as finance minister, with Iris Evans moving to international and intergovernmental relations. Grande Prairie MLA Mel Knight, previously the energy minister, moves to the sustainable resource development portfolio, while Dunvegan-Central Peace MLA Hector Goudreau, previously employment and immigration minister, moves to the municipal affairs file.

Hayden was replaced in the infrastructure portfolio by Lac la Biche-St. Paul MLA Ray Danyluk. Medicine Hat MLA Rob Renner remains as environment minister.

“Disaster”

Conspicuous by his absence from cabinet is George Groeneveld, the MLA for Highwood since 2004, the ag minister since 2006 and a cattle producer and grain grower from the Blackie area.

No official reason was given for the demotion. An anonymous government advisor was quoted Monday by the Canadian Press news service describing Groeneveld, a former Agricore United vice-president, as “a disaster” in the agriculture department.

“Nobody’s happy,” the source told CP, saying Groeneveld had angered “just about everyone in agriculture.”

The new cabinet is to be sworn in Friday morning (Jan. 15), the government said in its release.

“I have promised Albertans that we will be back in the black in three years and I have not wavered from that commitment,” Stelmach, a former ag minister in the Ralph Klein administration, said in the release.

“We are in a strong fiscal position thanks to our financial planning and, together with my new cabinet team, we are going to take the necessary steps to ensure we emerge from this economic downturn even stronger than before.”

CORRECTION, Jan. 14 –– A previous version of this article stated Jack Hayden moved to provincial politics in 2004, when in fact he was first sent to the Alberta legislature in a 2007 byelection.

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