Provincial agency appointments- report on NDP’s first two years

Originally posted on 23 August 2017

On 4 July Bob Ascah presented preliminary findings of extensive research on over 500 Order-in-Council appointments to provincial agency boards since the NDP formed government in late May 2015. The presentation deck can be found here: Provincial Agency Presentation New appointments by the NDP are contrasted to re-appointments of positions initially filled by the previous government.

Key findings include:

1. Diversity is in;
2. there is generally less partisanship in appointments;
3. female, non Caucasian, and First Nations/Metis appointments are more numerous than under the previous government;
4. there are fewer lawyers and more Ph.Ds; and
5. paradoxically more business owners.


The charts below paint a clear picture that new appointments to agency boards are reversing the male dominance found under the previous administration. This becomes clear in the observations that 56 per cent of re-appointments were male while 54 per cent of new appointments were female. The total population examined over the 24 months of appointments was 504. The difference is statistically significant confirming the government’s stated ambition to re-balance boards to promote diversity. (Z-test: z=1.855*, p=0.064, i.e. significant at 90% level).

Alberta Board appointments_27754_image001


The NDP government has clearly made an effort to recruit and appoint individuals that are First Nations/Metis and non-Caucasians. While the preponderance of appointments remain Caucasian, the difference between new and re-appointments is dramatic as shown in the graph below.


Nearly 96 per cent of re-appointments were Caucasian, while 85 per cent of new appointments were Caucasian, a ten percentage point difference which is also statistically significant (Z-test Caucasian: z=-2.99, p=0.003***). While Chinese-Canadian re-appointments were higher (6) than new Chinese-Canadian appointments (4), the major difference is the appointments of First Nation/Metis members (15 new and 2 re-appointments) and non-Caucasians (2 re-appointments and 17 new appointments).


Questions of partisanship always turn up when individuals are appointed, especially to significant agencies like post-secondary institutions or large organizations such as the Workers’ Compensation Board, ATB Financial, the Alberta Energy Regulator, or AIMCo. It is challenging to obtain information about an appointee’s  political leanings especially in the context of a recruitment interview process where partisanship is never an explicit criterion. The Alberta Elections website ( ) alows a search by name to determine whether appointees contributed over $375 to a political party (before 2013) and $250 thereafter. Elections Alberta also has filings for election campaigns, leadership campaigns (more recently), and constituency associations but these are difficult to search efficiently.



In the case of NDP contributors, one might expect fewer “finds” since the contribution thresholds may reduce the number of NDP members due to an expected lower level of financial resources. As the chart above shows, more than 83 per cent of re-appointments had no identifiable political affiliation and over 90 per cent of new appointees did not display partisanship.

While there were some NDP re-appointments (mainly those with a labour background for labour relations board roles), the chart above is surprising since the NDP government appointed more Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCAA) partisans in the new appointment demographic.

Partisan appointments slide

One would normally expect that new appointments would have more NDP partisans than under the previous regime. This is indeed the case as the graph above shows for all appointments. Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCAA) supporters outnumbered the NDP appointments for all appointments including new appointments. This may be attributed to three factors: firstly, incumbents have an advantage in re-appointments since they have gained expertise and the board of peers has input over re-appointments, although the Minister’s office and Cabinet, including the Premier, have the final say. Secondly, many of the re-appointments were for an abbreviated term as the government learned to govern and to understand processes required for the appointment of hundreds of positions. And thirdly, the permanent bureaucracy also would have input into appointments and likely would be biased towards stability and continuity, thus favouring PCAA incumbents.


The chart below shows the sample population by profession. A few things stand out. There are fewer unionists now; however, this reflects the large number of re-appointments to the Labor Relations Board and the Workers Compensation Board and the hearing Commissioners which could distort the data. Particularly interesting is that under the new administration significantly fewer lawyers have been appointed (Z-test Lawyer: z=-3.67***, p=0.0003) and significantly more Ph.Ds have been appointed under the new regime relative to the ancient Ancien Regime (PCAA). Accountants seem to be holding their own at about five and a half percent. There are more business owners in new appointments since limited biographical data show no clear occupation and generally present themselves as “consultants” which have been classified as business owners.  As provincial agencies do a better job at reporting on their directors’ backgrounds, better classifications will emerge.


Comparison with 4 agencies- appointments under Ancien Regime

To compare attributes between the PCAA or the Ancien Regime, previous research undertaken examines a sample of 140 appointments (137 different individuals) over 20 years at four major provincial agencies: the Alberta Securities Commission. ATB Financial, AIMCo, and the University of Alberta. On the gender slide, very few females were appointed to these boards. This stands in very sharp contrast to the quite dramatic change to the New Democratic government’s choices on appointments.

ANcien REgime 1

Looking at political affiliation, nearly half are not known (red) the other half is essentially Tories with very slender numbers of liberals (“blue Liberal Mike Percy served on ATB’s board and was also chief of staff for the late Premier Jim Prentice), one Social Crediter- former Minister Bob Clark (and former Ethics Commissioner) who was appointed to ATB’s board by Ralph Klein.

Ancien Regime 2

The next chart eliminates the Not-knowns (NK) and shows the complete political dominion of the progressive conservative supporters over this 20-year period with 93 per cent of the positions.

Ancien Regime 3

Further work on broadening the data set from the PCAA era, to more rigorously test the demographic changes that seem to be occurring in agency board selection, is ongoing.

Female appointments close to parity on province’s boards27-9-17 EJ


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About albertarecessionwatch

Former Director, Institute for Public Economics, University of Alberta and currently Fellow of the Institute. Former executive with Alberta Treasury Branches. Worked for the Alberta government for 12 years with Federal and Intergovernmental Affairs and Alberta Treasury. Areas of focus: financial institutions legislation and policy, government borrowing, and relations with credit rating agencies. Ph.D in Political Science (Uof A), Masters of Public Administration and BComm. (Carleton University). Author of Politics and Public Debt: The Dominion, the Banks and Alberta's Social Credit. Presently working on study of Alberta provincial agency board appointments.

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