New Alberta premier picks legislator Oberle as energy minister

Mon Sep 15, 2014 5:36pm EDT
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CALGARY Alberta (Reuters) - Jim Prentice, sworn in on Monday as the premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, appointed legislator Frank Oberle as energy minister in the province that is the largest source of U.S. oil imports.

Oberle, first elected to the provincial legislature in 2004, takes over the energy post in a revamped Alberta government, which is hoping to win back popular support after Alison Redford, Prentice's predecessor, resigned earlier this year amid a series of spending scandals.

Alberta relies on royalties and fees from the oil and gas industry to fund about a third of its C$45 billion ($40.75 billion) budget. It is counting on growing production from the oil sands, the world's third-largest crude oil reserve, to help pay for schools, roads and hospitals needed to support its growing population.

The province of four million is also backing new pipelines to Canada's east and west coasts, and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to the refining hub around Houston, Texas, in order to ease persistent discounts for its crude oil in the U.S. Midwest, now the primary market for its petroleum exports.

"We have work to do when it comes to making the most of our resources," Prentice, who ran successfully for leadership of Alberta's ruling Progressive Conservative party to replace Redford, said in a speech after being sworn into office.

"Wider market access must be achieved for the energy we produce in this province."

Prentice appointed Robin Campbell, in his second-four year term in the legislature, to the post of finance minister. He previously served as government house leader.

The new cabinet includes two unelected ministers; Stephen Mandel, former mayor of Edmonton, the provincial capital, becomes health minister while Gordon Dirks, who once served as a minister of social services in the neighboring province of Saskatchewan in the early 1980s, takes over as education minister.

Prentice said both will run in by-elections that have not yet been scheduled.   Continued...