With the mental and physical fatigue of the campaign behind them, Alberta’s 44 rookie members-elect will head to the legislature Wednesday for orientation and training.
“I’m a little bit nervous but I’m also incredibly excited to be here and to get started right away this week,” Rebecca Schulz, UCP MLA-elect for Calgary Shaw, said shortly after she arrived in Edmonton on Tuesday.
Of the 63 United Conservative Party candidates elected last week, 41 are new to the legislature.
The NDP will make up the balance of the 87 seats. Three of the 24 NDP members-elect are newcomers: Janis Irwin in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, Jasvir Deol in Edmonton-Meadows and Rakhi Pancholi in Edmonton-Whitemud.
‘I’m excited to get started’
Pancholi, a lawyer, spent her last day at her Edmonton firm on Tuesday. Like Schulz, Pancholi is ready to get to work and excited about the orientation.
“I’m glad that actually it was scheduled as quickly as it is,” she said. “I’m a hard worker. I like to plan ahead and to think ahead, so I’m excited to get started.”
MLA orientation will start Wednesday morning with a welcome by outgoing Speaker Bob Wanner and a photo opportunity for the media. The rookies will meet legislative assembly staff, learn how to set up constituency offices, and perform mundane but necessary tasks such as filling out human resources forms and getting security passes.
Both the UCP and NDP are holding caucus meetings this week, giving the rookies their first chance to sit with new colleagues in the same room.
Premier-designate and UCP Leader Jason Kenney and his new cabinet will be sworn in on April 30. The new session is set to start in the third week of May.
“Our leader has been very clear that we are getting right to work,” Schulz said. “It still feels a bit surreal but certainly being here in Edmonton and right away, walking in and seeing other soon-to-be MLAs from across the province, is really exciting.”
‘I started crying’
Since the election on April 16, the members-elect have been picking up signs, packing up campaign offices and leaving their jobs.
Searle Turton, the UCP MLA-elect for Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, formally stepped down from Spruce Grove city council on Tuesday. After submitting his resignation letter, Turton started saying his goodbye to the people he had worked with for eight years.
“It lasted one person and I started crying,” he said.
Kaycee Madu, the MLA-elect for Edmonton-South West, goes into the orientation as his party’s only member from the city of Edmonton.
Madu was also wrapping up his law practice and said he’s looking forward to the work that lies ahead.
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“I will do my best to work as hard as I can on behalf of the people of Edmonton, not just the people of South West,” he said.
As the sole UCP MLA from Edmonton, Madu is considered a sure bet to be named to cabinet. Madu gracefully deflected a question about his prospects, saying that choice is up to Kenney.
“I am happy to serve as an MLA or in whatever capacity he deems me fit,” he said.
Schulz was a public servant and senior political staffer in Saskatchewan prior to moving to Alberta. While she is familiar with how government works, she knows being an elected representative is on a whole different level.
“A different set of expectations. It’s a completely different role,” she said.