B.C. Premier shakes up cabinet and bureaucracy
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell shook up his cabinet and bureaucracy Monday, but didn't touch his embattled finance minister, who keeps his portfolio amid the province-wide uproar over the harmonized sales tax.
Campbell's shuffle comes days before he delivers a televised address Wednesday where he's expected to ask British Columbians for their continued support.
Campbell and his three-term Liberals are floundering in public opinion polls, with Campbell at an all-time low approval rating of nine per cent -- among the lowest of any premier in Canada in years.
One of the biggest surprises in Monday's shuffle didn't involve cabinet.
Campbell announced his longtime chief of staff, Martyn Brown, would leave the job to become deputy minister of Tourism, Trade and Investment.
In Brown's place will be a former deputy minister of finance who helped steer the province through the austerity measures imposed during the Liberals' first term in office, beginning in 2001.
The premier confirmed his confidence in Hansen and his government's ability to manage the B.C. economy, which has been battered by the global financial meltdown.
"Over the last year, you'd be hard-pressed to find a provincial jurisdiction that has done as well at weathering the storm as the province of British Columbia," said Campbell.
"We've (created) over 45,000 jobs in our province. We've maintained our triple-A credit rating."
He said Hansen has been a guiding hand for the province during times of plummeting tax and resource revenues and record budget deficits.
Campbell didn't mention the HST as he praised Hansen.
Hansen, a staunch Campbell loyalist, was minister when the government introduced the much-hated combined tax and has echoed the premier's admission that the BC Liberals did a lousy job of getting the public on board.
"It has been a difficult time over the last two years," Hansen said after the shuffle.
"Really, from the start of the economic downturn in the middle of September 2008, but we have fared through fairly well, so I'm proud of what we've accomplished and I'm looking forward to us continuing to build on the really strong economic base we have for British Columbia."
Campbell appears to have taken seriously his admission that he and his government did a poor job selling the HST by appointing former solicitor general John Les as a new parliamentary secretary responsible for HST information.
Les, cleared earlier this year in a long-running Fraser Valley land investigation, said his job will focus on ensuring British Columbians vote in favour of the HST in next September's provincewide referendum on the tax.
"I want to be very active in helping in any way I can to make sure that when British Columbians make a choice, it's based on facts," said Les.
Opposition New Democrat Leader Carole James said she didn't expect Campbell to sacrifice Hansen over the HST because "every single B.C. Liberal is tainted with the HST. I don't think it matters."
James said the cabinet shuffle does not address the major credibility issue facing the Liberal government, which is that British Columbians no longer trust Campbell and are waiting to toss him and his government from office.
Campbell said the cabinet changes include one new minister --Stephanie Cadieux of Surrey, who will serve as minister of community, sport and cultural development -- and new or changed portfolios for 16 current ministers.
"It's really is aimed at building on the number of successes we've had," Campbell told reporters after the cabinet shuffle was announced.
"Those opportunities are there in the short-term and if we don't act on them, we potentially could lose them in the longer term," he said, adding that British Columbia isn't the only jurisdiction with its sights set on markets in Asia, India and China.
That's where Brown comes in.
The job of the former chief of staff will be to help B.C. capitalize on its "Olympic momentum." Campbell flatly denied Brown's new post is a demotion.
Brown has been Campbell's right hand since the Liberals swept to power in 2001.
He has crafted throne speeches and played an integral role in the government's policy decisions, including efforts to create a new relationship with First Nations and the decision to push B.C. toward unprecedented environmental standards.
"It's a personal loss for me, but a great benefit for the province," Campbell said.
Brown recently came to the public's attention when he testified at the trial of two former ministerial aides -- Dave Basi and Bobby Virk -- who pleaded guilty last week to charges of breach of trust and accepting a benefit in connection with the 2003 deal to privatize BC Rail.
Brown will be replaced by Paul Taylor, who was the BC Liberals' first deputy minister of finance.
Most recently, Taylor served as CEO of a private wind energy company and before that, he led the Insurance Corporation of B.C.
Barry Penner, who had been environment minister, was moved to Aboriginal Relations.
And Rich Coleman resumes his role as minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
It's a portfolio he has had before, but Attorney General Mike de Jong has been doing double-duty on it since earlier this year after Kash Heed resigned.
Heed had to leave the job, twice, after an investigation into Elections Act violations by some of his campaign workers.
Heed has been cleared, but in the past few weeks, has criticized the way the Liberals have been handling talks for a renewed contract with the RCMP for provincial policing.
Heed, who is awaiting the results of a second investigation by a special prosecutor, was not returned to cabinet in Monday's shuffle.
George Abbott, who had been minister of Aboriginal Relations, was moved to the Education portfolio on Monday. He replaces Margaret MacDiarmid, who was moved to Tourism, Trade and Investment.
Naomi Yamamoto was named minister of state for building code renewal, a new position tied to the government's plans to stimulate investment.
Forests Minister Pat Bell's duties were expanded to include mines and lands.
Here is a list of the B.C. cabinet appointed on Oct. 25:
- Premier -- Gordon Campbell
- Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation -- Barry Penner
- Agriculture -- Ben Stewart
- Attorney General -- Mike de Jong
- Children and Family Development -- Mary Polak
- Citizens' Services -- Mary McNeil
- Community, Sport and Cultural Development -- Stephanie Cadieux
- Education -- George Abbott
- Energy -- Bill Bennett
- Environment -- Murray Coell
- Finance and Small Business -- Colin Hansen
- Forests, Mines and Lands -- Pat Bell
- Health Services -- Kevin Falcon
- Labour -- Iain Black
- Natural Resource Operations -- Steve Thomson
- Public Safety and Solicitor General, Housing -- Rich Coleman
- Regional Economic and Skills Development -- Moira Stilwell
- Science and Universities -- Ida Chong
- Social Development -- Kevin Krueger
- Tourism, Trade and Investment, minister Responsible for the Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat -- Margaret MacDiarmid
- Transportation and Infrastructure -- Shirley Bond
Ministers of State:
- Minister of State for Building Code Renewal -- Naomi Yamamoto
- Minister of State for Climate Action -- John Yap
- Minister of State for Mining -- Randy Hawes