An unexpected cabinet shuffle has resulted in a local MLA netting a cabinet post.
Dr. Richard Starke, MLA for Vermilion-Lloydminster, is the new Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation. Starke replaces Calgary-Currie MLA Christine Cusanelli, a first-time member of the provincial legislature who made headlines in 2012 when she was forced to repay nearly $11,000 in meals, airfare and expenses improperly charged to her cabinet office.
Starke, who also is a rookie in the legislature, is excited about his promotion.
“I’m really honored,” he said. “I’m eager to take on some of the challenges of the post.”
As the province begins a period of fiscal frugality, Starke is entering the cabinet at a time of increased scrutiny and accounting for every dollar spent. While not recognized as a ‘core’ portfolio in the government, Starke feels that tourism plays an important role in the provincial government.
He feels that in a time where critics are challenging the province to become less economically dependent on natural resources, enhancing and promoting Alberta’s vast tourist destinations is a responsible way to ensure Alberta’s future sustainability.
“We are blessed with natural beauty with an in-place infrastructure,” he said.
Playing host to many visitors to Alberta over the years, Starke enjoys taking his guests to parts of Alberta that might not be as well known as Jasper or Banff.
He mentioned that white Alberta’s mountains are indeed spectacular and popular destinations, the would like to see an emphasis on equally spectacular but lesser-known tourism destinations such as the Badlands, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and the Frank Slide. He also wants a greater emphasis on enhancing Alberta’s already flourishing hunting and fishing industries.
“These all represent huge opportunities for our province,” he said, stressing that he also plans to highlight tourism destinations within his own riding.
While Starke looks forward to his new post, he hasn’t forgotten about the mandate given to him by his constituents.
“Job one will be my MLA duties,” he said. “That is the job I was given back in April.”