Campbell won't punish minister for comments
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says he won't punish his energy minister for publicly criticizing his handling of a cabinet shuffle.
Bill Bennett declined a request for an interview Tuesday but on Monday the former minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources had plenty to say about the changes the Liberal premier made to his ministry.
Bennett, who saw some of his old portfolio handed over to an expanded Forests, Mines and Lands Ministry, told a newspaper that Campbell made the cabinet changes without consulting his elected colleagues and pointed out the plummeting popularity of the Liberals as evidence that it might be time for a different approach.
Campbell said Tuesday he will not discipline Bennett over his outburst.
"No," said Campbell. "I asked Bill to be minister of energy. I think he'll be a great minister of energy, and as he said... he intends to work to do everything he can to make this work, and that's exactly what I expect from my ministers."
The embattled premier, whose approval rating has dropped into the single digits since he introduced the controversial harmonized sales tax, disagreed with Bennett's account.
He said he spoke with the Kootenay region cabinet minister on the weekend and told him he planned to make the changes to what was the Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Ministry.
Campbell said Bennett told him he didn't like the changes but would work to turn B.C. into an energy powerhouse.
"I had a good conversation with Bill about it on the weekend and I think it's going to be something that will work well for our economy and well for the government," Campbell said.
"I talk to all members of cabinet before I do a cabinet shuffle," said Campbell. "He (Bennett) was clear with me that's the way he felt and I understand that and I think it's fine for people to make those sorts of comments."
Bennett is no stranger to political hot water. In February 2007, the Cranbrook-area minister resigned from cabinet after sending a rude email to a constituent and spent a year on the back benches before returning to the cabinet.
He later had to apologize for an email criticizing environmentalists who want to turn the Kootenay area Flathead Valley wilderness area into a national park as "eco-fascists."
And during last year's provincial election, some aboriginal groups were upset over an ad campaign that showed Bennett with local residents, saying he pays taxes just like us. Bennett's New Democrat opponent was a well-known local aboriginal leader, and some suggested the ads had racial overtones.
The Liberal cabinet minister denied any such suggestion.
Bennett was named minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources last June after former energy minister Blair Lekstrom quit cabinet and the Liberal caucus over the harmonized sales tax. Lekstrom now sits as an independent MLA.
Campbell's decision not to discipline Bennett is in stark contrast to how Opposition New Democrat Leader Carole James handled a rogue caucus member.
MLA Bob Simpson was dumped from caucus when he refused to apologize for posting an online column criticizing James's speech at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last month.