How government works
Learn about key positions within the Alberta government, and how it's organized.
Alberta's first premier, Alexander C. Rutherford, was elected in 1905 and his Liberals took 22 of 25 seats. In 1979, the Progressive Conservatives won 74 out of 79 seats. After the 2012 provincial election, the Progressive Conservatives held 61 out of 87 seats.
The Liberal party formed the first government in Alberta from 1905-1921.
The United Farmers of Alberta party overcame the Liberals in 1921 and stayed in power until 1935.
The Social Credit Party formed the next provincial government for 35 years from 1935-1971.
The Progressive Conservative party has been in government from 1971 to present.
The province is divided into 87 constituencies. During a provincial election, the candidate in each constituency who wins the highest number of votes becomes the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for that constituency. The leader of the political party with the most winning candidates becomes the Premier of Alberta. The Premier and ministers form the government.
The Lieutenant Governor is the Queen's representative in Alberta. Constitutional duties of the Lieutenant Governor include ensuring that the province always has a Premier so that there is continuity in governance, opening and closing each Legislature Session and granting Royal Assent to measures and Bills passed by the Assembly to give them the force of law.
His Honour, Col. (Ret'd.) the Honourable Donald Stewart Ethell, OC OMM AOE MSC CD LLD, is the current Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
His Honour, Col. (Ret'd.) The Honourable Donald S. Ethell is the current Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
Legislative Assembly of Alberta
The Legislature is the provincial equivalent of Canada's Parliament. Alberta's Legislature is made up of the Lieutenant Governor and a single body of elected representatives called the Legislative Assembly. The Premier and Cabinet, like their federal counterparts, belong to the political party with the most elected members in the Assembly.
Premier of Alberta
The Premier is the head of government in Alberta. The leader of the political party with the most seats in the Legislative Assembly becomes the Premier. While the Premier does not need to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly to lead the province, he does need to be an MLA to sit in the Legislature and participate in debate. As head of Executive Council, the Premier chooses cabinet ministers from among elected members of the governing party.
The Honorable Jim Prentice is the Premier of Alberta, President of Executive Council and Chair of the Agenda and Priorities Committee.
Executive Council is made up of the Premier and cabinet ministers. Its role is to put government policy into practice. The Premier is the head of Executive Council, and chooses cabinet ministers from elected members of his party.
Executive Council Office
The Executive Council Office provides support to the Premier and the members of Executive Council. The office is led by the Deputy Minister of Executive Council, Richard Dicerni, and is comprised of:
- Agency Governance Secretariat
- Deputy Secretary to Cabinet
- Policy Coordination Office
- Protocol Office
- Public Affairs Bureau
- Corporate Human Resources
- Regulatory Review Secretariat
Cabinet is the framework in which members of Executive Council put government policies into practice. Ministers are MLAs in charge of specific government ministries. Beyond approving Orders in Council, Cabinet ratifies policy matters and is the final authority on issues related to the day-to-day operation of government. The Premier chairs Cabinet.
The Speaker directs debates and proceedings in the Legislative Assembly. The Speaker is an elected Member of the Legislative Assembly. At the beginning of the first Legislative session after an election, all MLAs vote for the Speaker by secret ballot.
The Honourable Gene Zwozdesky is the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. He is also the MLA for the constituency of Edmonton-Mill Creek.
The Opposition is made up of MLAs who are not part of the governing party. The role of the Opposition is to critique government activity, propose improvements to legislation, and present itself to the public as an alternative to the party in office. Alberta currently has three opposition parties. The Wildrose Party has the most opposition seats in the Assembly. It is called the Official Opposition. The Alberta Liberal Party and Alberta New Democratic Party also sit in opposition.
Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs)
Members of the Legislative Assembly are elected by Albertans to make the laws they live by. Each MLA represents a constituency, or a group of voters in a specific area of the province. MLAs selected by the Premier to represent ministries are referred to as Cabinet Ministers. Those who are not in Cabinet are referred to as private members, or caucus members of their particular political party. In the province's last general election, held on April 23, 2012, Albertans elected MLAs to 87 seats.
By law, a provincial general election must be held every 5 years, though it can be held sooner. In a general election Albertans from across the province vote on who they want to represent them in the Legislative Assembly.
Sometimes a seat in the Legislative Assembly is vacated before the next provincial election. When this happens, a by-election is called. A by-election is an election held in 1 constituency only. The winner of the by-election becomes the new MLA for that constituency until the next general election.
Laws are passed by MLAs. Laws are introduced as bills, and debated in the Legislative Assembly before being put to a vote. If the Assembly passes a bill, it goes to the Lieutenant Governor for Royal Assent, at which point it becomes law.