Premier Christy Clark has named rival Kevin Falcon her finance minister and deputy premier, handing him the delicate task of preparing for a referendum on the harmonized sales tax.
Clark unveiled a smaller cabinet at swearing-in ceremonies at Government House Monday afternoon, with new faces and new duties.
Among these alterations, Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes was removed from his cabinet position as minister of state for mining, but named parliamentary secretary for Natural Resource Operations (NRO) Review to the minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations.
Hawes said he wasn’t upset to lose his minister status.
“That’s kind of the way it goes. I’m okay with it,” he added. “I’m not surprised. I knew [Clark] was going to make cabinet smaller.”
His new role will see him work with natural resources industry representatives to help hammer out the framework for the NRO, which will streamline the permit application process to avoid duplication.
“It’s not going to be an easy fix. This is massive change for government,” he said.
Currently, Hawes explained, if companies want to open a mine, they apply to several different ministries for the different aspects of the work, and obtain First Nations consultation on each one. The new system would see all permits evaluated together.
Falcon said he accepted his new duties and was looking forward to a referendum that could come as early as June, to decide the fate of the HST. He laughed off his comments the night Clark won the B.C. Liberal leadership vote.
“No, no, no,” Falcon said after finishing a close second to Clark on Feb. 26. “Don’t make me finance minister under any circumstances.”
Falcon said Monday he would do “an information job,” not a “sales job” in preparing for the vote on the issue that triggered a leadership change.
New faces include Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake as environment minister, and Comox Valley MLA Don McRae entering cabinet as agriculture minister. Both are facing recall campaigns organized by former premier Bill Vander Zalm’s Fight HST group.
Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong stays in cabinet as minister of community, sport and cultural development.
Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Harry Bloy, the only MLA to support Clark’s leadership bid, was named minister of social development.
Former finance minister Colin Hansen joined the back bench, along with former premier Gordon Campbell.
Also left out of Clark’s new cabinet were former ministers Iain Black, Ben Stewart, Margaret MacDiarmid, Murray Coell, Kevin Krueger and Moira Stilwell.
Clark said leaving leadership rival Stilwell out of cabinet was one of the difficult choices she made to reduce the size of cabinet. It is down to 18 ministers from 23.
Two previous ministries are combined into forests, lands and natural resource operations. Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson runs that, with former forests minister Pat Bell moved to Clark’s most significant new job, a ministry of jobs, tourism and innovation.
– with files from Jason Roessle