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(Published in the Abbotsford News week of June 20, 2005)

The New BC Cabinet

John Pifer

Some surprises and contradictions, along with the predictable, sums up the new BC Cabinet appointed by Premier Gordon Campbell on Thursday.

It came as no surprise that former CBC-TV chair Carole Taylor entered Premier Gordon Campbell’s new Inner Circle as a rookie MLA – but it was onehelluva big surprise to almost everyone that Our Gordo’s teacher’s pet was named finance minister.

Political pundits and insiders had pegged the highly capable Taylor as economic development minister, yet her entry to finance makes sense when one considers her history of managing large budgets and intricate spreadsheets. She was acclaimed a star candidate; chances are very good that she will be a star minister, and she remains the odds-on favourite to be Premier at some stage.

Also given his just rewards for leaving a well-established career to fly the Liberal flag was former provincial court judge Wally Oppal becoming BC’s new attorney-general … no surprise there.  He is the only Indo-Canadian in the rarefied air of the Cabinet room. You may recall that that ‘community’ turned its back on the Liberals in the May election, especially in the Surrey ridings, and this may be a sharp lesson for it.

Despite Taylor’s stunning posting, the biggest winner on the day was former finance chief Colin Hansen, who now oversees economic development, the Asia Pacific and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver/Whistler. That will up his profile considerably, and change Hansen from being the ‘Doctor No’ of finance to being at the forefront of the continuing economic boom. Hansen immediately leaps onto the list of top contenders to replace Campbell as Premier three years or so down the road, where Taylor, Rich Coleman and others are already lurking.

Five women are among the 22 Cabinet positions, with Taylor and Prince George’s Shirley Bond in health leading the parade in terms of influence and clout over all those white old white guys in suits.

Other Cabinet observations worthy of note:

  • Finally, BC again has a full environment ministry, with the long-overlooked and highly ambitious Barry Penner of Chilliwack in charge. His neighbouring MLA, former mayor John Les, moves in as solicitor-general, giving the Fraser Valley more clout than usual at the Big Table.

  • Finally, tourism is acknowledged as the province’s second largest industry, and biggest overall employer, as rookie MLA Olga Ilich of Richmond heads the ministry of tourism, sports and the arts.

  • The appointment of Abbotsford’s feisty Mike DeJong as labour minister may mean the government is prepared to take the public-sector unions, especially the teachers, head on. DeJong is more confrontational than conciliatory, and he may well be the point man for the looming negotiations with teachers, as he was during the May election.

  • Some deserving veteran Liberal backbenchers such as White Rock’s Gordon Hogg and North Vancouver’s Ralph Sultan may have their noses out of joint for being passed over again, and rightly so. But with four prominent Vancouver members and six or seven others from the Lower Mainland in Cabinet, geography may have done them in, merit or not.

Many pundits, and even NDP leader Carole James, see this Liberal lineup as a kindler, gentler, more moderate group, reflecting the change from a 77-2 majority in 2001, to the loss of 31 seats to 46-33 in 2005.

We’ll see.

Veteran B.C. journalist/broadcaster John Pifer may be reached at


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