Politics-watchers say Alberta is very likely to get a seat at the cabinet table when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces his picks on Tuesday.
Despite persistent political tensions between the federal and Alberta governments over everything from climate change to equalization, Albertans voted in two federal Liberal MPs last month: Randy Boissonnault in Edmonton Centre and George Chahal in Calgary Skyview.
Boissonnault was first elected in 2015 but lost his seat in 2019. He won it back last month by a narrow margin of 577 votes.
He served previously as a special adviser to the prime minister on LGBTQ2 issues.
“I think [he] developed quite a high profile in that position. Hard worker, worked hard to regain the riding for the Liberal Party this time,” said Anne McLellan, who served four terms as a federal Liberal MP in Edmonton and as deputy prime minister, minister of health and minister of natural resources.
“I would be surprised, let me put it this way, if Randy were not invited by the prime minister to serve in this cabinet.”
Former Calgary city councillor George Chahal is now a first-time Liberal MP. But he comes to federal politics carrying some baggage: the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections is investigating a doorbell camera recording of him removing an opponent’s flyer and replacing it with one of his own.
“With some of the controversies and scandals around the prime minister and his government in the last few years, I can’t see him going with George,” said political adviser Najib Jutt, who has worked with the Liberals, Greens and Conservatives at the federal level.
“He can always shuffle in George later if he does a cabinet shuffle in a year or so. I think Randy will probably be the logical choice.”
Both McLellan and Jutt say an Alberta MP in cabinet can focus policy attention on the economy, the state of the energy sector and Indigenous rights.
Relations between Alberta and Ottawa have been acrimonious over the years. Jutt said bringing an Albertan into cabinet allows the Trudeau government to signal that it is “still listening to Alberta and taking Albertans’ concerns seriously.”
McLellan said her 12 years of experience in cabinet taught her that provinces or regions that do not have representation in cabinet can struggle to be heard and understood at the federal level.
“If you don’t have that authentic lived reality around the cabinet table, it is too easy for myths to be perpetuated, misrepresentations to take hold,” she said.
“Every day, I was struck by the fact that it is important to have a voice around that table who comes from and is of a place like Alberta, which is a big, complex place that’s got a bunch of issues that are really important to our economic future as a province [and] to the nation.”