VICTORIA - B.C. Premier Christy Clark has hired a former top aide to Ontario's premier as her new communications director in a third attempt to put in place a winning communications team in time for next May's provincial election.
Ben Chin becomes the latest appointee in the revolving door of staff changes in Clark's office that has seen at least three communications makeovers since she took over as premier in February 2011.
Clark's first press secretary, former radio and television reporter Chris Olsen didn't last a year, and in recent months Clark's office has seen the arrival and departure of Prime Minister Stephen Harper loyalists, Ken Boessenkool and Sara MacIntyre.
Former Premier Gordon Campbell stalwart Mike Morton, who served as Campbell's press secretary for much of his first two terms, joined Clark's office last summer to help with press secretary service.
Clark's Liberals have been consistently trailing the Opposition New Democrats in public opinion polls, but her focus on her government's job creation agenda has seen the Liberals start to regain some lost ground.
Chin, who served as Dalton McGuinty's media relations chief, is well-known across Canada as a journalist with the CBC, CTV and City TV. Chin currently lives in Vernon, B.C., and was most recently working as a vice-president and advisor to Air Miles for Social Change.
Chin's hiring comes during a government-wide hiring freeze, but officials said the position was a replacement, not a new job. The replacement does not increase staff numbers in the premier's office, say Liberal officials.
NDP caucus chairman Shane Simpson said it appears Clark's office operates under a less rigid financial standard than the rest of government, which is under a hiring freeze to help fight dropping revenues and a rising budget deficit.
"Either we have a tough financial situation and there is going to be belt-tightening, there is going to be hiring freezes and it affects everybody or else it doesn't," he said. "If there's a double standard for the premier's office then they should just say there's a double standard and the premier's office operates under a different set of rules."
Chin replaces MacIntyre, a former Harper press secretary, who arrived in B.C. last spring as part of Clark's effort to shore up her government's right flank to beat back the perceived threat by the B.C. Conservatives led by former federal Tory MP John Cummins.
Infighting among the provincial Conservatives and two spring byelection defeats appears to have done more to diffuse the Tory threat to the Liberals, and MacIntyre has since been shifted to a government ministry in Victoria.
Boessenkool a former federal Alberta Tory strategist, handed in his resignation as Clark's chief of staff in September after admitting to inappropriate conduct.
Long-time public servant Dan Doyle was recruited to replace Boessenkool.
Doyle issued a statement Monday to Liberal staff and Liberal members of the legislature outlining the changes in the premier's office.
"I'm more confident than ever that our team — all of us together — will be successful over the next few months as we focus on strengthening British Columbia's economy and strengthening B.C. families," said Doyle's statement.
Other changes include, Ken Dawson moving to the premier's office from the education ministry and Maclean Kay moving from caucus communications to serve as a communications co-ordinator in the premier's office.
Jennifer Chalmers, an executive assistant to Doyle and a communications co-ordinator, takes on manager of operations in the premier's office.