Monday, January 26, 2004

Frying pan to the fire!

BC's newly reshuffled provincial cabinet was introduced to the public this afternoon, and it would seem that Christy Clark has been moved from one hot spot, to a hotter spot. The former Education minister who frequently found herself at loggerheads with teachers, administrators and parents, has a whole new challenge ahead of her. Clark has been handed the Children and Family Development portfolio which has a smaller budget than education, but just as many, if not more headaches. It was the position that was recently vacated with the David Hogg resignation, as his department faced turmoil on many fronts, and is best described as a mess.

The shuffle of Clark is perceived by many as a lateral move, not quite a demotion but certainly not a promotion. Taking her place in Education is Tom Christenson, his arrival to cabinet was not universally applauded by the opposition. NDP leader Carole James considers his appointment to be a sign the Premier attaches no importance to education, placing a relative unknown in the high profile job. As she put it Tom Who? Of course it wasn't too many months ago that many were saying the same thing about her, wondering how the NDP could entrust her with the leadership of the opposition party.

Other losers appeared to be Judith Reid the transportation minister, the ghost of the Coquihalla mess and other troubles in Transportation haunted her through her time in office. She announced later in the day that she was leaving politics for the private sector, thus it was actually her decision to leave the portfolio, or so the spin goes. Sheila Copps in Ottawa/Hamilton, should take notes on exit strategies. Kevin Falcon was given the transportation position, it's now his job to make sure that the right roads get paved before the next election.

The other loser of the day was newlywed Ted Nebbling, who announced Sunday that he had married his long time partner in November. The morning news was full of details on Mr. Nebbling being the first cabinet minister in Canada, if not the world, to have a same sex partner. By the afternoon he was out of cabinet, and off to the backbenches. Bad timing for that announcement, the optics of firing Mr. Nebbling the same day he makes news on the social awareness front, is best left to the Liberal party machine to try and explain.

Those were the main stories, the rest of the shuffle had all the drama of changing lines at a pick up hockey game. Of note for northerners and Heartland watchers was Roger Harris of the Skeena riding becoming a Minister of State for forestry, his northern neighbour Bill Belsey once again managed to avoid being named to the cabinet. The tea leaf readers on that say the Liberal backroom folks (those presently not talking to their lawyers) feel they may lose the North Coast seat in the next election, while increasing the profile of Harris could save the Skeena seat for another term.

All in all 6 folks were dropped, 11 changed portfolios, one new position was created and one was discontinued. The Big money ministries, except for Education, all have the same folks in charge, so whatever direction the Liberals are going in will continue. Assuming they actually know which way they are going these days.

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