POLITICS

B.C. premier brings back former Campbell press secretary Mike Morton

06/28/2012 02:57 EDT | Updated 08/28/2012 05:12 EDT
VICTORIA - Premier Christy Clark has reached back to the Gordon Campbell era for her newest press secretary — her third communications aide since she was elected Liberal leader in February 2011.

Mike Morton said Thursday he's coming out of retirement to work with the premier.

Morton, who served as Campbell's press secretary from 1998 to 2008, said he starts working for Clark next Tuesday.

"I have said to her since she was elected leader and premier, that I would help in any way I could, and it so happened she was looking to have a press secretary based in Victoria, and, here I am," he said.

Morton said he did not view his return as a media handler as a demotion for Sara MacIntyre, who has been working as Clark's press secretary for the past four months.

"She was hired specifically to be the director of communications, and to be a bit more Vancouver based, so I absolutely don't see it as a reflection on her efforts to date at all," he said.

MacIntyre was recruited to Clark's team while she worked in Ottawa as a media spokeswoman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Her move to Clark's office coincided with the arrival in British Columbia of Harper strategist Ken Boessenkool to shore up Clark's right-wing flank, which was feeling pressure from the upstart B.C. Conservatives.

MacIntyre replaced former Vancouver television reporter Chris Olsen who was Clark's original press secretary and was let go earlier this year after less than a year on the job.

Morton stepped down as Campbell's press secretary in January 2008 and became the executive director of the B.C. Liberal caucus, where he worked until he retired last November.

Campbell, who won three consecutive B.C. elections, announced his retirement in November 2010, while admitting public anger directed towards him for his decision to introduce the harmonized sales tax was preventing the Liberal government from moving forward.

Morton, known for his easygoing approach while working for Campbell, said Clark has a busy summer ahead of her as she works to reconnect with British Columbians, but the Liberals under her leadership can still win the May 2013 election.

"Absolutely, she can win," he said. "I'm feeling a bit like Gordie Howe coming back, I think, for the 14th time, but, No, I'm really looking forward to coming back and working with the premier. We've got lots of work to do in the coming months."

Opposition New Democrat caucus chairman Shane Simpson said he viewed Morton's return to the premier's office as an attempt by Clark to reconnect with more traditional B.C. Liberal supporters after her move to court the hard right with Harper aides and meetings with former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.

He said he's also concerned that the premier's office appears to be continually expanding while she tells British Columbians times are tough and people need to do more with less.

"Mr. Morton may deliver the message in a bit kinder and gentler fashion the Ms. MacIntyre did, it doesn't change anything because at the end of the day it's going to be Ms. Clark's performance or the performance of senior ministers that people are going to be looking at," said Simpson.