Former professor named Alberta Energy Minister

Alberta Premier Alison Redford has named former professor and geologist Kenneth Gardner Hughes the province’s new Minister of Energy.

Hughes takes over the post previously held by Ted Morton, who failed to win reelection in the province’s April 23 election. A graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Hughes holds a Master of Public Administration, Corporate and Public Finance.

While Hughes, a member of the Progressive Conservative (PC) party, is not a career politician, he does have prior political experience. Hughes served one term in the 34th Canadian parliament, losing that seat in 1993.

Given his lack of an extensive political or energy industry background, opponents of power projects in the province approved under the previous legislature say Hughes is something of an unknown quantity.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re unknown or not; what ends up happening is you end up supporting the position that your government has put forth,” Colleen Boddez, founder of the Alberta Landowners Council, told TransmissionHub on May 8.

“I’m going to assume that it’s not going to be much different than it was before; we’re still going to see the same kind of support for what they legislated as far as the Bill 50 transmission lines,” she said, referring to the East Alberta Transmission Line (EATL), West Alberta Transmission Line (WATL), and the Heartland transmission project.

“Only time will tell,” Boddez said.

In 1994, Hughes was appointed as board chairman for the Headwaters Health Authority and held that position until 1995.

In 2002, he founded Alpine Insurance & Financial and has served on the board of directors for Wentzel Downhole Tools, a supplier to the oil and gas industry, since 2005.

Hughes was appointed the founding chair of Alberta Health Services in May 2008, but resigned that position to run for the PC party’s nomination for the Calgary-West area after incumbent Ron Liepert announced his retirement.

Although he lost the nomination to former legislative assembly member Shiraz Shariff, the nomination was thrown out by the party because of voting irregularities, according to reports published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Hughes won the nomination on the second ballot, and a seat in the 28th Legislative Assembly on April 23.