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Alberta Alberta premier-designate Jason Kenney picks senior staff ahead of swearing in next week

Jason Kenney, Alberta's premier-designate and leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP), meets with the media in front of the Legislature Building in Edmonton, on April 17, 2019.

CANDACE ELLIOTT/Reuters

Jason Kenney has recruited political aides with backgrounds in Ottawa and British Columbia, a week before the United Conservative Party leader is to be sworn in as Alberta’s next premier.

The five top senior officials in Mr. Kenney’s office, announced Monday, will be a mixture of familiar faces to Alberta conservatives and new arrivals in the province.

Mr. Kenney, a former federal cabinet minister, led a newly formed party that had united Alberta’s political right to an overwhelming election victory on April 16, ending Premier Rachel Notley’s hold on power after just one term.

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Jamie Huckabay, who served for seven months as chief of staff to Mr. Kenney when he was opposition leader, will retain the top role in the premier’s office. He previously worked with a number of tech companies in the United States and Asia.

He will be joined by Howard Anglin, who as principal secretary will be Mr. Kenney’s senior political adviser. Mr. Anglin was a former chief of staff to the premier-designate when he was the federal citizenship and immigration minister.

Kathy Merrifield, a director of communications to former B.C. premier Christy Clark and a senior adviser to current B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, will be Mr. Kenney’s executive director of communications and planning.

Christine Myatt, a long-time press secretary to Alberta’s conservatives, will serve as Mr. Kenney’s liaison to the media.

David Knight Legg is the head of the premier-designate’s transition team. He recently moved to Alberta from Hong Kong, where he worked as an executive for the Australia-based Commonwealth Bank. There is currently no plan for Mr. Knight Legg to take a long-term position in the Alberta government, according to Mr. Kenney’s office.

With the exception of Ms. Myatt, none of Mr. Kenney’s political aides has a documented history in Alberta’s conservative politics or the Progressive Conservative Party that ran the province for 44 years before Ms. Notley’s win in 2015.

“This group of talented, passionate individuals has the right mix of public and private-sector experience. Each will be a tremendous asset as we begin to action our ambitious, jobs-focused agenda,” Mr. Kenney said in a written statement.

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Neither he nor his new senior aides were available to answer questions Monday.

As Mr. Kenney prepares to be sworn in on April 30, Ms. Notley’s office is being packed up. Almost all her senior staff have already been let go, with only her chief of staff, principal secretary and communications director remaining as of Monday. Ms. Notley has announced that she intends to remain the head of the NDP and will swap roles with Mr. Kenney, becoming the province’s opposition leader.

The NDP’s seat count was cut in half on April 16, from 52 to 24. The UCP won 63 of the legislature’s 87 seats, with almost 55 per cent of the popular vote. No other party won a seat. Turnout was the highest in decades, with more than 71 per cent of Alberta voters casting ballots.

Even before taking office, Mr. Kenney’s promise to slash spending has had an impact on the government. Civil servants, without direction from the premier-designate, confirmed Monday that they had put a hold on a new, $590-million medical testing lab in Edmonton, even though construction started last month. Mr. Kenney has pledged to review the project, which is supposed to consolidate all of the Edmonton area’s lab tests in one facility.

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