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B.C. Liberal cabinet sworn in but defeat looms for minority government

B.C. Premier Christy Clark talks with media after being sworn in as premier following a ceremony at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, June 8, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. Premier Christy Clark talks with media after being sworn in as premier following a ceremony at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, June 8, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA — Premier Christy Clark appointed a new 22-member cabinet Monday while acknowledging her Liberal minority government is likely destined to be short lived.

Clark said she told her new ministers to be prepared to govern despite a looming confidence vote in the legislature that could result in her government's defeat by the end of this month.

"We are in caretaker mode," she said at a news conference following a swearing-in ceremony at the official residence of the lieutenant-governor.

"We're not pursuing any major new policy changes, which is why it's pretty much a stand pat cabinet," Clark said. "But at the same time we do have a responsibility to be in the house, to be able to answer questions in the house."

British Columbia politicians return to the legislature on June 22 and Clark's Liberals are expected to face a united effort by the New Democrats and Greens to defeat her minority government in a confidence vote.

Last month's election did not produce a clear winner, with the Liberals winning 43 seats in the 87-seat legislature.

The Liberals won the most seats so parliamentary convention requires that Clark receive the first chance to form a government.

But the NDP, with 41 seats, and the Greens, with three seats, have signed an agreement to vote against the Liberals in a confidence vote. The Greens have also agreed to support an NDP minority government led by John Horgan on future confidence matters.

Clark's new cabinet has five new ministers including Ellis Ross, B.C.'s first indigenous cabinet minister with a portfolio as he takes over at natural gas development and housing.

Mary Polak, the former environment minister, becomes the health minister, and Jas Johal, a first-time politician and former television reporter, is the minister of technology, innovation and citizens' services.

"The new cabinet does reflect some new perspectives based on what we heard during the election," Clark said. "The team reflects the results of listening to what voters told us in the last election."

She said last month's provincial election made two things clear: people want a government that works across party lines and one that will bridge urban and rural divides.

Clark said despite the scenario that leads to her government's defeat, the Liberals will introduce a throne speech next week.

"Our job in a vote of confidence is to present a throne speech that reflects the direction we'd like the province to take," she said. "That's the government's chance to set out for British Columbians and for every member of the house where we want to take the province."

Clark also said the government will put forward a Liberal member to serve as Speaker of the legislature, but she didn't mention who that person would be.

Parliamentary tradition holds that the government side is responsible for the Speaker's position, she said. The Speaker serves as an impartial referee during debates and can be called upon to cast votes in the event of a tie.

 

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