Premier Christy Clark revealed her new, 19-member cabinet — one greater than before last month's election — at a flashy event in Vancouver with hundreds of invitees and its own corporate sponsors.
Clark used the event not only to unveil the cabinet, but also to repeat her election promises to turn B.C. into a world leader in liquefied natural gas — a trillion-dollar industry that she claimed again will one day help the province wipe out its debt.
"I'm presenting to you today the people who will carry out that task, who will meet that mandate you have set for us," Clark said before calling her new ministers to the stage.
"This team that I have chosen is a blend of experience and fresh eyes coming new to government, the fresh perspective that government needs."
The cabinet will officially be sworn in at Government House in Victoria on Monday.
Several of Clark's most trusted ministers will remain in cabinet, though some of them will be shuffled around.
Rich Coleman, whose pitbull-like defence of Clark has been a fixture within the Liberal party even before the campaign, becomes deputy premier and takes over the newly created ministry of natural gas, a key portfolio given Clark's focus on liquefied natural gas. Coleman was previously minister of energy, mines and natural gas.
Shirley Bond, previously the justice minister, will find herself in another key ministry when she takes over jobs, tourism and skills training. Terry Lake will move to health, from environment.
And Mike de Jong will continue as finance minister, charged with keeping Clark's pledge to balance the budget — a promise that drew no shortage of skepticism during the election campaign.
Clark also handed significant responsibilities to those who have never sat in the legislature before.
Former Langley mayor Peter Fassbender will take over delicate negotiations with the province's teachers in education, while former senior Mountie Amrik Virk takes over advanced education.
Suzanne Anton, a former Crown prosecutor and former Vancouver city councillor, will become justice minister and attorney general. Anton was also a one-time Vancouver mayoral candidate who lost her first attempt at a Liberal riding nomination.
In all, the cabinet is composed of nine veterans, seven rookies and two politicians who have been backbenchers but will be elevated to cabinet.
Three former ministers — Norm Letnik, Moira Stilwell and Ralph Sultan — will no longer be in cabinet, though Letnik will become a parliamentary secretary to the premier.
"The choice was this: to have a much, much bigger cabinet with fresh perspectives added, or have a cabinet that was almost the same size," Clark said after her announcement.
"That meant that there were some cabinet ministers who weren't returning. Those decisions were very, very difficult."
Opposition NDP Leader Adrian Dix said he was surprised by the size of cabinet, given Clark's focus on fiscal restraint.
Dix preferred to include parliamentary secretaries in his tally of the new cabinet — bringing the total number to 34, including the premier — even though parliamentary secretaries don't attend cabinet meetings. They do, however, get a stipend of about $6,000 each.
"Thirty-four ministers and parliamentary secretaries is a lot," he said.
"It's certainly not the message of fiscal control for politicians that they talked about in the campaign."
The previous cabinet had 18 ministers, not including the premier, while the new cabinet has 19.
Dix also said Clark's decision to appoint a minister in charge of a core review of government spending signals the Liberal pledge to balance its budget may be in doubt.
Throughout the campaign, the New Democrats said they estimated the Liberal budget to carry an $800 million deficit — a claim the NDP based on its assertions the Liberals couldn't meet their own spending targets or sell off a list of government assets.
Clark added two new ministries — natural gas and international trade — and did away with the position of minister of state for seniors.
She also renamed several ministries, including removing the phrase "open government" from the Ministry of Citizens' Services while shifting technology and innovation to that ministry from advanced education.
Three former ministers had either lost re-election or didn't run again. Ben Stewart, who was minister of citizens' services, has volunteered to give up his Kelowna-area riding to allow Clark to seek a seat in the legislature.
The veterans who will be re-appointed to cabinet also include:
— Mary Polak, who moves to environment from transportation.
— Stephanie Cadieux, who has been re-appointed as minister of children and family development.
— Bill Bennett, who was formerly in the relatively junior minister of sport and cultural development, now becomes energy minister.
— Steve Thomson, who returns as forests minister.
— Don McRae, who had been education minister and now becomes minister of social development.
— Naomi Yamamoto, whose minister of state position now includes tourism, in addition to her previous position as minister of state for small business.
New to cabinet is John Rustad, who was first elected to the legislature in 2005. Before the election, he had been serving as a parliamentary secretary, but he now becomes minister of aboriginal relations.
Another former parliamentary secretary, Pat Pimm, is now the minister of agriculture. He has represented Peace River North since 2009.
Other rookies entering the legislature and cabinet for the first time include:
— Todd Stone, who owns a Kamloops software company, becomes minister of transportation.
— Lawyer and doctor Andrew Wilkinson, becomes minister of technology, innovation and citizens' services.
— Coralee Oakes, a Quesnel city councillor, becomes minister of community, sport and cultural development.
— Teresa Wat, a former Chinese-language television news director, becomes minister of international trade.
Former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan was left out of cabinet.
The new cabinet will have 12 men and eight women, including Clark.
The Liberals were widely expected to lose the most recent election, but they returned — even increasing their seat count — to a comfortable majority with roughly half incumbents and half rookies.
Before the cabinet was introduced, Clark reminded everyone that money was tight and urged them to resist pressure to spend beyond the government's means.
"The global economy remains fragile and recovery in places that surround us is slower than we like," she said. "But it's further confirmation that we must be strong. We must run a tight ship."
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