Energy Ink

Redford takes old school tack in selecting new energy czar

Alberta's newly-minted premier picks Ted Morton to succeed Ron Liepert

October 12, 2011

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Alberta Premier Alison Redford promised to bring new blood into her cabinet. What she didn’t say was what cabinet spots the new blood would occupy.

And as Redford unveiled her selections on Wednesday in Edmonton, it appears she wasn’t willing to entrust the important energy portfolio to a cabinet neophyte. So, Frederick Lee Morton (you can call him Ted), a former finance minister and a failed candidate for the job Redford now holds, is Alberta’s new energy minister. He replaces Ron Liepert, who had held the post since 2010 and is now Alberta’s finance minister.

Morton’s got the attributes the oil and gas industry likes to see from an energy minister: he’s from Calgary, he’s a fiscal conservative and he won’t mess with the province’s royalty regime.

It’s also important that the province have someone in this job who can get in front of a camera and be a strong advocate for Alberta and the industry on important issues like access to new markets, carbon emissions and the environmental impact of the oil sands. Say what you want about Leipert’s effectiveness in that role, but he had no fear of engaging in public scuffles with anyone who stood in the way of growth in Alberta’s oil patch. I suspect Morton won’t be shy about doing this work, either.

But is Morton a good choice as energy minister? For the province and its oil patch, Morton makes as much sense as anybody else Redford had to choose from. He’s an experienced politician and a strong public figure, who also happens to be industry-friendly and a guy who won’t rock the boat on petroleum policy issues. Whether the choice is good for Redford’s political career is another matter.

Morton ran against her in the recently completed Progressive Conservative leadership race. He also didn’t support her after he was knocked out in the first ballot, instead throwing his lot with Gary Mar, who Redford upset. One wonders if he can be a team player or if he’ll look for any opportunity to undermine Redford’s leadership.

But how the pair get along isn’t the industry’s concern. In Morton, it will be dealing with a member of the “old boys” club that the premier was looking to break up. That would seem to suit the sector just fine.

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