New B.C. cabinet sworn in, but defeat looms

Premier Christy Clark has promised to lay out an ambitious agenda in a throne speech this month despite the likelihood it will trigger the defeat of her Liberal government.

Clark, who has recalled the legislature for June 22, said the speech will reflect the messages that Liberals heard from voters who failed to give her government a majority in the provincial election on May 9.

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“Our job, in a vote of confidence, is to present a throne speech that reflects the direction that we’d like the province to take,” she said Monday, following the swearing in of her new 22-member cabinet.

“What I can tell you today is that that direction is going to reflect what we heard from people in the election.”

She offered few details, but said the speech will include commitments “to make life more affordable for middle-class families, to give our children the best supports and the best start possible to build their success, to protect and enhance our environment, to build communities with a high quality of life.”

As she has done previously, Clark acknowledged that she expects to lose a vote of confidence on the speech. Her party won 43 seats in the election to 41 for the NDP and three for the B.C. Green Party, but the NDP and Greens have announced plans to work together to topple the Liberals.

‘It’s altogether likely that government will not win that confidence vote,” Clark said.

In anticipation of that, she announced what she described as a “stand pat” cabinet that included five new faces, but left most ministers and ministries unchanged.

The NDP’s Mike Farnworth, MLA for Port Coquitlam, called the cabinet swearing in “a farce” that ignored the fact most people voted for a change of government in the election.

“She knows she’s going to lose a vote of confidence,” he said. “This is a government that’s going to be defeated in a couple of weeks, so the idea that she’s laying out an ambitious agenda, that this is what they really care about? Most people are going to see right through that.

“It’s nothing more than hollow words from a government that’s well past its best-buy date.”

The new faces in Clark’s cabinet are:

• Jordan Sturdy, who takes over the Environment Ministry from new Health Minister Mary Polak.

• Sam Sullivan, who becomes the minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, replacing Peter Fassbender, who failed to win re-election.

• Jas Johal, who becomes the minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, replacing Amrik Virk, who lost his seat

• Ellis Ross, who becomes the first elected indigenous cabinet minister with a portfolio, taking over the Ministry of Natural Gas Development and Housing from Rich Coleman, who moves to Energy and Mines.

• Linda Reid, the former Speaker of the house, who becomes minister of Advanced Education. She replaces Andrew Wilkinson, who becomes the attorney general and minister of Justice. Former attorney general Suzanne Anton lost her seat in the election.

Clark remained coy about who will fill the role of Speaker. She said her government will ensure that there is someone in the chair, but refused to say whether he or she will be a Liberal MLA. The issue remains a source of interest because a single vote separates the Liberals and the NDP-Green Alliance, potentially putting the Speaker in the position of breaking ties.

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