B.C. Premier Christy Clark sworn in, unveils cabinet
Published Monday, March 14, 2011 5:27PM EDT
VICTORIA - The finance minister who unveiled British Columbia's unpopular harmonized sales tax is out and the dissident who quit the party over the controversial tax is back in new B.C. Premier Christy Clark's cabinet.
Clark took the oath of office and unveiled a pared-down cabinet, announcing plans to follow a prudent financial course and a promise to "engage citizens in decision-making as never before."
The former radio talk show host won on a platform of bringing change to the B.C. Liberals but she will quickly face a province-wide referendum on her predecessor's unpopular harmonized sales tax -- a referendum she says she will move up to June 24 from Sept. 24.
"Our government will be open to the people of British Columbia. We will talk about our problems, we will set our priorities openly and we will work with citizens to find solutions," Clark said in an election-worthy speech at Government House clearly aimed at voters angry about the HST.
"And we will explain why we make the decisions that we do. You may not always agree with us and all the decisions that we make but to the greatest degree possible, you won't be surprised at the course that we take and you will know for certain why we've chosen it."
Hansen, the deputy premier and finance minister in former premier Gordon Campbell's government, was noticeably absent from the executive circle, along with former education minister Margaret MacDiarmid, former labour minister Iain Black and former social development minister Kevin Krueger.
Blair Lekstrom, who quit the cabinet and caucus over the HST last fall, exposing the inner turmoil over the tax that eventually cost Campbell his job, returned to the front bench as transportation minister.
One of the few new faces among the 18-member cabinet is Harry Bloy, the only sitting MLA to back Clark as leader.
Former health minister Kevin Falcon becomes deputy premier and finance minister, while Shirley Bond becomes solicitor general.
Mike de Jong, who Clark defeated last month in the leadership race, is the new health minister.
George Abbott, who also ran unsuccessfully for the leadership, is back in cabinet despite his open criticism of Clark during the leadership campaign. He is the education minister.
Clark reduced her cabinet from 23 to 18 seats, seven of them women including Clark. She said her smaller cabinet reflects her government's goal of respecting and being frugal with the tax dollars of British Columbians, and she promised a stable and prudent financial course ahead for B.C.
A former education and children's minister herself under Campbell, Clark made "families first" a hallmark of her leadership campaign and promised health care and education -- a portfolio that saw a great deal of friction between government and the teachers' union under her care -- will be priorities.