Alberta's new premier names her first cabinet

Wed Oct 12, 2011 1:11pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Alberta's new premier, Alison Redford, has named her first cabinet, appointing a handful of former leadership rivals to key posts in Canada's largest energy-producing province.

Redford won a surprise victory early this month to become leader of the Progressive Conservatives, which have held power in Alberta since 1971.

The 46-year-old former justice minister, who is a centrist in the party, put together a cabinet that will likely remain in place until a provincial election, expected next year.

Among the key posts, former energy minister Ron Liepert becomes finance minister. The scrappy Liepert is responsible for meeting a goal of eliminating Alberta's C$3.4 billion ($3.3 billion) deficit by 2013.

Ted Morton, a favorite of the party's right who ran against Redford to lead the Conservatives, has taken the important energy post.

Alberta, whose economy is dependent on the energy sector, is fighting an onslaught from international environmental groups opposed to accelerating development of the oil sands, the world's third-largest crude deposit.

A major push to open new markets for oil sands crude is TransCanada Corp's $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline to Texas, which has become a flashpoint in the environmental debate over oil sands development. The proposed line faces a go-ahead decision in the United States by the end of this year.

Redford appointed another former leadership opponent, Doug Horner, as deputy premier and president of the Treasury Board.

First-term legislator Diana McQueen, meanwhile, is the new environment minister, replacing Rob Renner.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson)