New Alta. premier names new Alta. ag minister

Alberta’s newly minted premier has tapped a farmer and rookie MLA as her new minister of agriculture and rural development, in a shuffle that also includes several departmental mergers.

Evan Berger, who was elected as the MLA for the southwestern riding of Livingstone-Macleod in 2008, comes to the ag portfolio with a resume of farming and ranching experience plus nine years as reeve of the Municipal District of Willow Creek.

Berger, who hails from Nanton, about 80 km south of Calgary, until now had served as parliamentary assistant for then-sustainable resource development minister Mel Knight.

At the ag minister’s desk, Berger replaces Drumheller-Stettler MLA Jack Hayden, who Premier Alison Redford has shuffled to the tourism, parks and recreation portfolio.

Berger’s new parliamentary assistant will be Little Bow MLA and Carmangay-area grain grower Barry McFarland, who most recently served as chair of the legislature’s standing committee on health and previously as chair of the standing policy committee on agriculture and municipal affairs.

McFarland, an MLA since 1992, previously served as reeve of the County of Vulcan.

Water to environment

Redford’s shuffle also includes the creation of a single ministry of Environment and Water, which the government said will “emphasize the importance of protecting one of Alberta’s greatest resources.” Drayton Valley-Calmar MLA Diana McQueen will head up the merged ministry.

The legislature’s economic development file, meanwhile, will move to Treasury Board and Enterprise, headed by deputy premier and former ag minister Doug Horner, MLA for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert.

The province’s aboriginal relations and immigration portfolios will move to a new International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations department, led by Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas, “to better co-ordinate federal and Aboriginal portfolios,” the government said. 

The shuffle also includes creation of a new Ministry of Human Services, to be led by Edmonton-Whitemud MLA and government house leader David Hancock, to “bring together programming for children and families in need.”

Among other portfolios relevant to farmers, Peace River MLA and former solicitor general Frank Oberle takes over the Sustainable Resource Development file from Knight, who has been dropped from cabinet.

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