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New cabinet announced

West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA takes role as Minister of State for Community Charter Premier-elect Gordon Campbell went beyond the traditional appointment of cabinet members to announce sweeping changes to the structure of government itself Tuesday, Ju

West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA takes role as Minister of State for Community Charter

Premier-elect Gordon Campbell went beyond the traditional appointment of cabinet members to announce sweeping changes to the structure of government itself Tuesday, June 5.

Provincial ministries were dropped, divided, amalgamated, renamed and added to the pile, giving Campbell the largest cabinet in the history of the province at 28 members – seven more than the NDP, and 16 more than the 12 he called for in his 1996 election platform.

"The new government structure we have implemented today will expand opportunities for public input," said Campbell in his announcement.

"It will co-ordinate responsibilities in a way that makes services more accessible. And it will harness the broad talents of government members to ensure excellence and accountability in fulfilling the government’s responsibilities."

There are 21 ministries in the new cabinet, and seven Ministers of State to deliver on government commitments to health care, children’s development, community services, competition and intergovernmental relations.

The Ministers of State will work in partnership with government ministers to provide more accountability in meeting those commitments, and will increase public access and responsiveness for larger ministry portfolios.

"My government is committed to renewing public health care, building a top-notch education system, creating new services and opportunities for First Nations, revitalizing B.C.’s competitive position in the global economy and delivering strong environmental protection," said the Premier. "We are also committed to changing the way decisions are made to involve British Columbians and ensure accountability in meeting these priorities."

In his address to party supporters after being sworn in as B.C.’s 34th Premier, Campbell said of the changes, "For too long have we been wed to the structures of the past."

The cabinet of the future, or at least until the next election, will have four Ministers who are responsible for health-care issues. The Ministry of Health Planning is dedicated to improving long-term planning for the health needs of British Columbians. All health services are integrated under the Ministry of Health Services to better co-ordinate government resources. The Minister of State for Mental Health and the Minister of State for Intermediate, Long Term and Home Care will help the cabinet meet Liberal commitments in these areas.

Three ministers are responsible for education through the Ministry of Skills Development and Labour, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Advanced Education.

Two ministers will be responsible for aboriginal issues; the Ministry of Community Aboriginal and Women’s Services and the Attorney General, whose portfolio expanded as the Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations.

"My government is committed to addressing the social and economic challenges that First Nations face, including aboriginals living in urban communities," said Campbell.

The Minister of State for Women’s Equality will ensure that equality is an integral part of services and support to communities.

There are a number of positions to increase economic growth. The Ministry of Competition, Science and Enterprise is responsible for government programs to build a more advanced and competitive business climate, especially in the industries of technology, science and tourism. It is also responsible for eliminating taxpayer subsidies to business.

The Minister of State for Deregulation will review regulations across government ministries to look at ways to eliminate barriers to investment and job creation.

The Ministry of Water, Land and Air protection is responsible for protecting the environment, and the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management put all land-use planning and decisions under one roof.

The outgoing New Democratic Party, which won just two seats in the May election compared to the 77 seats won by the Liberals, were critical of Campbell’s changes.

"Mr. Campbell has just appointed by far the largest and most expensive cabinet in British Columbian history," said Joy MacPhail, one of the two NDP members to be reelected to the Legislature.

"In 1998, he was critical of the NDP government for increasing the size of cabinet by four portfolios, saying that it would add ‘at least’ $15 million to the cost of government. Using his math, with the addition of seven portfolios, Gordon Campbell today added almost $26 million to the cost of running government."

Jenny Kwan, the other NDP member to be elected, was concerned with the Campbell’s decision to lose key ministries in his restructuring. "This enormous new cabinet comes at the expense of First Nations peoples, women and the environment. It’s almost unbelievable, but Gordon Campbell has eliminated the ministries of environment, aboriginal affairs, and women’s equality, and there is no mention at all of housing. Nor is there any mention whatsoever of services to multicultural communities.

"We knew that during the campaign Mr. Campbell and his candidates paid lip service at best to these policy areas, but to actually eliminate these ministries is an action of arrogance.

"I question how members of the public can be expected to access this very complicated government structure."