Premier Gordon Campbell shuffled his cabinet yesterday to fill the holes created by the departure of four MLAs who are not seeking re-election in May 2009.
The realignment included promoting five former backbench Liberal MLAs and shifting the portfolios of seven ministers.
“Our government will continue to work as a team, concentrating on the issues that all British Columbians have told us are important to them,” said Campbell in a release, of the team that he will lead into the spring election.
Yesterday’s shuffle was prompted by the pending departure of ministers Carole Taylor (finance), Claude Richmond (employment and income assistance), Olga Ilich (labour) and Rick Thorpe (small business).
Of the changes yesterday, the most significant was the return of Colin Hansen as finance minister.
Hansen, formerly the Minister of Economic Development and the Olympics, was finance minister in 2004 and 2005, but was replaced by Taylor after the 2005 provincial election. He retains the Olympics as part of his portfolio.
Taylor, formerly chair of the CBC and one of Campbell’s star candidates in 2005, announced late last year that she would not be seeking re-election. At the time it was speculated that she might run for mayor of Vancouver.
In another significant move, Rich Coleman was dropped as forest minister, a ministry beset by a devastating mountain pine beetle epidemic and low lumber prices because of slow housing starts in the U.S.
Coleman will continue as housing minister and will assume the employment and income assistance portfolio under the name: social development.
Pat Bell takes over as minister of forests and range from agriculture.
Other shifts include moving Stan Hagan to agriculture from tourism and Gordon Hogg to mining from children and family development.
Kevin Kruger moves to small business from mines and Ida Chong moves to technology from community services.
New ministers are Blair Lekstrom (community development), Mary Polak (healthy living and sport), Iain
Black (labour and citizens’ services) and Bill Bennett (tourism, culture and the arts).
Bennett, formerly minister of state for mining, had resigned from cabinet last February after sending an angry e-mail to a constituent.
Joan McIntyre was also named minister of state for intergovernmental relations.