By Bill Philips
P.G. Free Press
Premier Christy Clark has delivered on one of her promises – to have a smaller cabinet.
The cabinet announced Monday has 18 ministers, including Clark, down from the 23 ministers that former premier Gordon Campbell had. It’s interesting to note that while Campbell funneled most of government through his office, he still felt it necessary to have a bloated cabinet.
It is heartening to see that Clark has reduced the size of cabinet. It’s hard to tell the peons paying the bills (i.e. the taxpayers) that they have to tighten their belts when the Minister of Triplicate Forms and Fiddly Bits of Paper jets off to a two-week seminar in the Bahamas.
NDP leadership hopeful Mike Farnworth stated that should he become premier, ministries would have names in English. In other words, people look at the name of a ministry and know what it’s about.
For the record, even Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Pat Bell refers to his jobs, tourism, and innovation portfolio as economic development.
But those are just names. The crucial aspect of Clark’s new cabinet, and new government, is whether it will actually be accountable and whether she actually will allow power to move out of the premier’s office and back to ministers.
As for Bell and fellow Prince George MLA Shirley Bond, it is certainly good to see they are in the new, leaner cabinet of Christy Clark. It would have been hard to omit them, given they represent the province’s northern capital, they are experienced ministers, and they both work very hard for their constituents.
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, however, has again been left out of the cabinet room. Rustad backed George Abbott in the Liberal leadership race right from the start. Who knows if that played a part in the decision, especially with higher profile MLAs like Bell, Bond and recent returnee to the Liberal fold Blair Lekstrom sitting in caucus.
Now it’s on to the business of governing. First up will be the June 24 referendum on the harmonized sales tax. It is likely that Clark will use that as a barometer for judging the mood of the electorate as she possibly ponders calling a snap election in the fall.
Even with Gordon Campbell now stepping down as MLA and Clark booting former finance minister Colin Hansen from cabinet, the Liberals have to know they will take a pounding during the HST debate.
If it’s too severe, a fall election won’t be a good call … at least for the Liberals.