Alberta Advanced Education minister Dave Hancock resigned his cabinet post this week to pursue leadership aspirations for the Progressive Conservative Party. The move comes on the heels of Premier Ralph Klein's announcement that he will step down in six months. It also comes while the post-secondary system is smack in the middle of a comprehensive review process.
"This is unfortunate from a student perspective because it puts into question whether all the commitments he's made will be seen through," said University of Calgary Students' Union vice-president external Jen Smith.
Calgary Egmont MLA Denis Herard will be sworn in as Advanced Education Minister Thu., Apr. 6. Herard was first elected in 1993 and is one of five new cabinet ministers appointed by Klein to fill vacancies left by leadership hopefuls.
Smith was present at the Wed., Apr. 5 announcement, and said the focus was not on education, but health-care.
"We're afraid the third way is taking over," said Smith, adding Klein barely mentioned education when reporters asked him about his priorities for the remainder of his term.
Smith is concerned the PSE review process could be hurt by the cabinet shuffle, but Advanced Education spokesperson Cam Traynor insisted the process is still on track.
"The A Learning Alberta review is coming to fruition this spring and summer and minister Herard has already said he's excited about completing the process," said Traynor. "He has quite a background in education issues."
Traynor noted Herard chaired the education and employment standing committee and has also sat on a number of education boards. Herard also sponsored the motion to create the Alberta centennial education savings plan.
Traynor said the A Learning Alberta steering committee is currently preparing its final report to the minister, and admitted there will be a transition process.
"With the change of minister we'll have to review the situation," he said. "But he brings a lot to the table in both his experience and passion for education."
Both Hancock and Herard were unavailable for comment before press time.