Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Meet the new cabinet, much like the old cabinet

Cabinet shuffles are mostly political. It's not about the ministers or the government structure. It's the equivalent of designing a new detergent package with big blue letters saying "New, Improved."
Even if the detergent is not much changed. There is only one new minister, Stephanie Cadieux, in community, sport and cultural development. No one was fired. Mostly it's the same crew in slightly modified roles.
There are a couple of significant changes.
George Abbott moves from aboriginal relations to education. Abbott has been in health too, so he's handled tough assignments. They haven't gone wrong, but it's hard to point to big accomplishments.
Premier Gordon Campbell wants to make education and the economy defining issues. So Abbott is going to face big challenges in managing change to the school system while facing well-organized interest groups, from the B.C. Teachers Federation to school trustees.
The other big changes come in the resource ministries. Those are tough to understand.
Basically, Pat Bell is responsible for forests, mining and lands. That adds mining to his former responsibilities, which could make sense. It provides a ministry focused on maximizing forestry and mining opportunities, which should be good for resource-based communities.
But there is also a minister of natural resource operations, Steve Thomson, and a junior minister for mining, Randy Hawes. (Plus Bill Bennett as the energy minister.)
So if you have a great mining opportunity, who do you call - Bell, Thomson, Hawes? Or all three? And how do government employees figure out who does what (especially over the next six months as this all gets sorted out)?
There are other interesting appointments. Rich Coleman is back as solicitor general, but keeps housing because he likes it.
Coleman's former responsibility for income assistance and cuts to services for developmentally disabled adults moves to Kevin Krueger, new minister for social development. Krueger's record in arts and tourism suggest that will end in tears.
The biggest change comes in the premier's office. Martyn Brown, Campbell's chief of staff for more than a dozen years, is out. Paul Taylor is in.
You won't find a more powerful job in most governments. Premiers have a deputy minister, charged with managing the public service and a chief of staff to direct the political agenda, manage the message and make sure the party gets re-elected.
Brown was Campbell's guy through three election wins. But part of the job is taken the fall when things go wrong. So Brown is off to a nice job as deputy minister of tourism, trade and investment. (A softer landing, at public expense, than most of his counterparts experience.)
You can't fault the decision. The Liberals have had an awful go wrong. Their communication strategy has been dreadful. They can't keep doing the same things.
So Taylor takes over his job.
It's interesting that Campbell turned back to a familiar figure. Taylor has been one of the most influential managers in Alberta and B.C for almost two decades. After Ralph Klein took power in 1992, Taylor came up with the plan to cut spending.
Campbell recruited him to do the same thing in this province. Taylor did the work for seven years, then Campbell appointed him to run ICBC in 2004. He left that job in April 2008, to run NaiKun Wind Energy Group, which hoped to score big green energy deals with B.C. Hydro.
That didn't work out. Taylor left NaiKun in June. The company was worth about $100 million when he arrived, and less than $8 million when he left, as B.C. Hydro shunned the wind-power proposals. (Which should be reassuring - Taylor's connections didn't help.)
Same people, yet another round of tinkering with ministry responsibilities, even more odd positions - Naomi Yamamoto is minister for building code renewal and John Les gets an extra $15,000 as parliamentary secretary in charge of selling the HST.
That's the other thing with shuffles. They never do bring the benefits the leaders hope for.
Footnote: Hours after the shuffle, Bill Bennett offered a rare internal critique. The overhaul of resource ministries was made without any consultation with caucus or the ministers, he said. When the government is so unpopular it's time to start involving people in decisions, Bennett said.


Norm Farrell said...

This was published at Northern Insights in January 2010:

Logically, when a company such as Naikun Wind Energy Group announces a $2 billion project with $14.6 million of shareholders' equity and an accumulated deficit of $35 million (Sept 2009 audited financials), something strange is happening. Naikun Wind by the way has been known by other names during its history (check your old penny-dreadful stock certificates, you might be a shareholder):
Silver Butte Resources Ltd.
Silver Butte Mines Ltd. (Npl)
Uniterre Resources Ltd.
Consolidated Silver Butte Mines Ltd. (N.P.L.)

Naikun's equity ratio is a little like you, dear reader, purchasing a half million dollar home with no down payment, barely the cash to pay legal fees and no job or income. Well, not exactly that because Paul Taylor, Gordon Campbell's former associate, may have the power of the provincial purse standing behind Naikun, ready to guarantee promoters a lucrative return for whatever power they generate.
Before I wrote that, I reviewed Naikun financial statements and BCSC filings. Perhaps you have other information? I understand there was some controversy among First Nations people and that Naikun depended on the bands to back major financing.

When Paul Taylor departed Naikun, he was paid over $600,000 for contract termination.

North Van's Grumps said...

So what came first for Paul Taylor, the shoe dropping in his office at Naikun, or hearing the shoe drop for Martyn Brown while he testified at the BC Rail trial?

Anonymous said...

Rich Coleman made a cryptic comment about not being consulted after the shuffle that sounded much like Bill Bennett's whinge... Coleman talked like a politician with his eye on the top job.

Bennett did the math before making his comment: 3 independents + Bennett = party status and funding. There was no way Campbell could afford to fire him.

PW: I'm disappointed that you did not go over Taylor's tenure at ICBC and his subsequent departure... it says much about Campbell's character that he would invite Taylor back into the public service doesn't it? Do we get our $500,000 back?

Anonymous said...

Bennett, Lekstrom, Simpson and Huntington would make an interesting and credible party. The one that doesn't fit, unfortunately, is Huntington as she has (rightly) been opposed to the actions of BC Hydro.

Kim said...

So Taylor has made over a million dollars getting fired from ICBC and Naikun Wind? Sounds like graft to me. And John Les as Minister for HST, well thats just crazy.

Anonymous said...

Wow: it sure doesn't look like Bennett will be staying in cabinet for long. One doesn't cross Campbell's emotional caucus henchman and stay around for long.