Premier Christy Clark moved cabinet veteran Mike de Jong to the key finance job vacated last week by Kevin Falcon, and promoted two newcomers to cabinet in a major shuffle Wednesday.
Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick is B.C.’s new agriculture minister, and West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan made it to cabinet at age 79, as minister of state for seniors.
Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, a former high school teacher, takes over for the retiring George Abbott as education minister. And Vancouver-Fairview MLA Margaret MacDiarmid, a physician, replaces de Jong in the health portfolio.
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett returns to cabinet in a previous role, minister of community, sport and cultural development. Bennett was fired from cabinet in 2010 after harshly criticizing former premier Gordon Campbell.
Returning to cabinet are Vancouver-Langara MLA Moira Stilwell, who ran for the B.C. Liberal leadership last year, and Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart, who reprises a previous role as citizens’ services minister. Stilwell takes over the social development job from Surrey-Panorama MLA Stephanie Cadieux, who becomes children and family development minister.
Clark stressed that the cabinet represents renewal, with nine members first elected in 2009, and stability with veterans such as Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman continuing as energy and mines minister.
NDP leader Adrian Dix countered that the shakeup shows instability. Cadieux is the fifth minister in the children and families role in recent years, he said, and Langley MLA Mary Polak becomes the 11th minister in charge of ICBC during the B.C. Liberal government.
Polak moves to the transportation ministry vacated by Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom, who surprised the government Tuesday by joining the list of B.C. Liberal MLAs not running in May 2013. Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong takes over Polak’s former role as aboriginal relations minister.
Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap was appointed minister of advanced education, a promotion from minister of state for multiculturalism. He replaces North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Naomi Yamamoto, who moves to a new role, minister of state for small business.