Nanaimo’s MLAs are divided in their reactions to Premier Christy Clark’s new cabinet.
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon was appointed parliamentary secretary for innovation and technology to the minister of advanced education, innovation and technology, one of nine MLAs named as parliamentary secretaries.
Cantelon said the new cabinet is a strong one that reflects the talent and diversity of opinions in the Liberal caucus.
“There were a lot of good people sitting on the sidelines,” he said, adding that while some longstanding MLAs are gone, change is important for renewal.
The cabinet shuffle, announced Wednesday, follows in the wake of the resignations of several high-profile ministers.
Last week, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, Education Minister George Abbott, Children and Family Development Minister Mary McNeil and Chilliwack MLA John Les, parliamentary secretary to the premier, announced they wouldn’t be seeking re-election.
On Tuesday, another cabinet minister – Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure – resigned.
No new ministries have been added to the latest cabinet, although two ministers of state positions were added – one for seniors and one for small business.
The cabinet, made up of 16 ministers, the premier and two ministers of state, includes five new faces: Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart, Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, Vancouver-Langara MLA Moira Stilwell and West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan.
“The new cabinet brings a renewed commitment to our priorities,” said Clark in a press release. “That means staying focused on jobs and fiscal discipline and continuing our efforts to make life more affordable for B.C. families.”
Cantelon said the new cabinet was well selected. As a former teacher, Don McRae will bring a frontline perspective to his new position as education minister, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid is not only a doctor but also a capable, experienced cabinet minister and the agriculture minister is from the Interior, the centre of that industry, he said.
As for his own appointment as parliamentary secretary for innovation and technology, he plans to focus on expanding opportunities for manufacturing wood products on the Island, which he said is a particular passion of his.
Leonard Krog, Nanaimo NDP MLA and attorney general opposition critic, said Clark’s cabinet choices are more about winning next year’s election by appealing to as many groups as possible than about governing the province.
“They’re trying to shore up their base and make the government more appealing, protect seats,” he said. “She has lost a lot of very talented people and she’s trying to put a fresh face on her government.”
Krog called Rich Coleman’s appointment as deputy premier the “obvious choice” given that he is “highly partisan” and was the former house leader.
“Coleman is there to shore up the conservative voters who are slipping to the B.C. Conservatives,” said Krog.
The two new ministers of state positions respond to pressure from the opposition, as the NDP have often raised concerns about issues related to seniors and small business, he said.
On a positive note, Krog said Cantelon’s appointment will raise the profile of the mid-Island region in the upper echelons of government.