Deciphering the latest cabinet shuffle

New mandates and new Members of the Legislative Assembly were obvious starting points for Premier Campbell as he announced the new line-up of Cabinet Ministers in Victoria. The challenge over the coming weeks will be for both the Premier and his new Cabinet to craft a legislative and fiscal agenda that addresses the urgent problems that our province faces.

In some respects, the new Cabinet has many familiar faces. Colin Hansen, for example, holds on to his post as Minister of Finance, a key position in the Cabinet given all the uneven economic conditions that BC is experiencing. Four other Cabinet Ministers hold on to their previous assignments.

In terms of new faces at the Cabinet table, the Ministry Advanced Education and Labour Market Services is one of seven Ministries to have not only a new face, but also a first-time Cabinet Minister. Dr. Moria Stilwell, MLA for Vancouver Langara, takes over from Murray Coell who moved to a new assignment as Minister of Labour. Dr. Stilwell's background in post-secondary education will be an asset as she begins her new duties as Minister.

For Premier Campbell, the biggest challenge will be maintaining critical public services at a time when BC's economy needs the fiscal support to kick-start growth. The wrong approach would be for the provincial government to scale back programs and services. It's an approach that has been followed far too many times in BC (e.g. the Bennett "Restraint" programs in the mid-1980s) all with predictable and negative consequences.

A more sensible way forward is to acknowledge a fiscal gap in the short-run-a gap that is likely larger than the one that Mr. Campbell talked about during the election campaign-and ensure than the deficit spending targets services and programs that will help BC's economy recover. Post-secondary education has an important role to play in that recovery. Skills and knowledge are essential platforms for building the modern economy that everyone wants to see take hold in BC. Hopefully, Premier Campbell and his new Cabinet will reflect that new approach when the new legislative session begins in late August.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.