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.
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 will 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.
Shuswap MLA George Abbott stays in education, where he was assigned in Campbell’s last cabinet shuffle. Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong takes over the health ministry, with Chilliwack-Hope MLA Barry Penner remaining as attorney general.
Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom, who quit the cabinet and caucus over the HST just before it was introduced last year, was assigned the transportation and infrastructure portfolio.
Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman takes over energy and mines, taking with him responsibility for housing that he has carried through several ministries.
Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond moves from transportation to public safety and solicitor general, a job that has seen resignations and controversy in recent years.
Langley MLA Mary Polak moves from children and family development to aboriginal relations, with Vancouver-False Creek MLA Mary McNeil replacing her in one of the government’s most difficult tasks.
First-term MLA Stephanie Cadieux remains in cabinet as minister of labour, citizens’ services and open government.