LandKeepers News Archive
June 15 2009 | News Articles | The Globe and Mail
Native rights top priority for new B.C. cabinet
Legislation central to province’s future, Campbell says as he introduces seven rookies and dumps four previous members
The Globe and Mail
Victoria — Monday, Jun. 15, 2009
Plans for a sweeping new law on native rights will continue to be a top priority for the B.C. government, Premier Gordon Campbell said Wednesday as he unveiled his new cabinet.
“Our duty is to all British Columbians,” Mr. Campbell stated in his opening remarks after announcing the 24-member cabinet.
“All British Columbians must, by definition, include … the indigenous nations of British Columbia. We will build a partnership predicated on reconciliation and recognition.”
The Premier backed down on his proposed Recognition Act just weeks before heading into the spring election campaign, promising more consultation. On Wednesday he said the proposed law is “central to our long-term future as a province.”
The new minister responsible is George Abbott, who will be asked to draft the new law in the face of opposition from industry, aboriginal communities and the federal government. The framework for the law, released earlier this year, proposes a dramatic shift away from the province’s policy of denying aboriginal title in the courts. It also provides for shared decision-making and revenue sharing.
Mr. Campbell dumped four previous members of cabinet and elevated seven rookies who were sworn in as MLAs just two days earlier. One of the casualties of the shuffle was Gordon Hogg, whose departure from the mining portfolio was lamented by an industry that has recently clashed with the Campbell government over the Recognition Act.
“We let it be known that we liked working with him and would have welcomed his reappointment,” said Pierre Gratton, president of the Mining Association of British Columbia.
The new cabinet is larger and almost all the ministries will be under new leadership – just five ministers from the previous cabinet retained their posts.
The changes include a new Health Minister, Kevin Falcon, who is a fan of private-public partnerships; a Solicitor-General, Kash Heed, who favours regional police forces; and a Transportation Minister, Shirley Bond, who lives far from Metro Vancouver’s congested streets.
Mr. Falcon’s first test will come from provincial health authorities, who say they are facing dramatic budget shortfalls. He told reporters Wednesday he is open to looking at any innovations to save money, and said he won’t be bound by ideological opposition to anything that looks like a shift toward private health care.
“It’s that kind of silliness that doesn’t get us anywhere,” Mr. Falcon said. “What the public really cares about is they want good, high-quality health care when they need it. Our job as government is to figure out how we deliver that in a way that maximizes the resources of government.”
Mr. Campbell, asked about naming an MLA from Prince George to the transportation portfolio, said the ministry needs to focus on more than gridlock across Metro Vancouver. “I don’t think you can go to any part of the province where they don’t say they have transportation problems.”
But the cabinet retains familiar faces in key posts. Colin Hansen remains Finance Minister, carrying on the overhaul of the provincial budget for Sept. 1. As Mr. Hansen’s position was announced in the ballroom at Government House, Mr. Campbell quipped: “I hope they’ll be cheering like that after Sept. 1.”
Mr. Hansen later told reporters he remains confident he can deliver essentially the same budget that he tabled in February despite the downturn in the economy. “If I were in a position to table a budget today, it would be a deficit of $495-million or less. I’m still confident that come Sept. 1, we will still be able to deliver on that.”
Mike de Jong, the new Attorney-General, leaned over to shake hands with his predecessor Wally Oppal, who was sitting in the front row with the guests in the ballroom at Government House. Mr. Oppal, who lost his seat in the election by just 32 votes, came to Victoria in the morning to clear out his office. Although it was hours before he was officially replaced, he discovered he had already been cast out: His electronic key card had been deprogrammed.
“I would think after four years as attorney-general that some idiot bureaucrat would not revoke my security pass before I cleaned out my office,” Mr. Oppal said.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Campbell said the appointment of the newly elected Mr. Heed as Solicitor-General does not signal a move to amalgamation of police forces, and Mr. Heed later would make no commitment to pursue the policy he advocated as the former police chief for West Vancouver. “I want to make sure we can deliver the best police services for all British Columbians,” he said.
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