JUNE 26 ROUSING THE RABBLE: Today’s BC Liberals like yesterdays

The memories of the provincial election held on May 14 are now dim and with the exception of the residents of Kelowna-Westside.

The memories of the provincial election held on May 14 are now dim and with the exception of the residents of Kelowna-Westside, British Columbians have returned to doing what they normally do at this time of year.

With the exception of the by-election, there is not much to remind us of May 14.

Three events occurred this month that seem indicative of the kind of people who were elected to govern the province for the next four years and they remind us that “Today’s BC Liberals” are just like yesterday’s BC Liberals.

First, Christy Clark announced that political staff would get a good-sized pay raise. Her chief of staff was scheduled to get a raise from $175,000 to $225,000

People complained that a government that espoused fiscal restraint was sending the wrong message with the pay raise.

On June 20, Clark responded to the flack and reversed the decision to give raises. She cancelled the raises for all staff with the exception of her deputy chief of staff, Michele Calario, who worked as deputy campaign manager for the Liberals during the campaign. She will now receive $195,148. Dan Doyle, chief of staff, gets the same salary. By comparison, Barack Obama’s chief of staff is paid $172,200.

Ministerial chiefs of staff got no raise but they already receive $94,500.

In response to questions about her decision to cancel the raises, Clark said, “It was the wrong decision and I have always in my political life said to people, ‘I’m going to listen and if I make a mistake, I’m going to step up and fix it,’ and so that’s what we’re doing. The message isn’t consistent with my determination to control government spending,” she said. “I said during the election we’re going to control spending and we’re going to try and make government smaller if we can, and that’s going to mean tightening our belts.”

If it was wrong to give the raises, why did she and her cabinet agree to them? Were they hoping no one would notice?

Around the same time, seniors in care homes were told that they would have to pay $300 annually for wheelchair maintenance and that future maintenance will be privatized. Will Clark call for a reversal of this decision too?

Long-time Clark critics will say making characteristic of Clark and Today’s BC Liberals and there will be more of it.

A third and highly important event was the introduction of the new cabinet at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Nineteen cabinet ministers and 14 parliamentary secretaries were named making the 2013 cabinet, larger than its predecessor.

The promise of fiscal restraint during the election campaign was just a promise.

During the next four years, four of the 19 ministries will get more attention than the rest to fulfill government objectives of jobs, growth and economic strength. They will be Natural Gas Development; International Trade and Technology; Energy and Mines and Technology; and Innovation and Citizens’ Services.

Rich Coleman, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Fort Langley remains as deputy premier and takes on the new Ministry of Natural Gas Development. He will be responsible for keeping the cabinet up to speed on heavy oil (bitumen) pipeline developments and natural gas production. A pipeline and a couple of liquified gas plants at Kitmat will be high on his list.

Teresa Wat, MLA for Richmond Centre, a newcomer, was given International Trade and she will be the minister responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism.

Bill Bennett, MLA for Kootenay East was given the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the task of conducting a core review.

Andrew Wilkinson, MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena, another newcomer, will assume the role of Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizenship Services.

Memories of the 2013 election may be fuzzy at best, but there will be plenty happening in the coming months enough to keep the tweeters happily tweeting, bloggers blogging and the Facebookers “liking.”

– Roy Ronaghan is columnist for the Grand Forks Gazette

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