In the end, loyalty and a “soft heart” weren’t enough to keep Harry Bloy in Premier Christy Clark’s cabinet.
The Liberal MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed languished for a decade on the backbench until Ms. Clark came along and named him Minister of Social Development last March. He was the only member of his caucus to support Ms. Clark’s leadership bid. But his appointment only served to put his wobbly communication skills in the spotlight.
On Monday, a week before the start of a fall legislative session that was expected to target Mr. Bloy over his handling of services to developmentally disabled adults, Ms. Clark demoted him to a junior portfolio.
From his first media scrum as a cabinet minister, Mr. Bloy failed to sparkle as a communicator. He wasn’t sure of what his new portfolio included, and despite media training from government communications staff, he would spend the next six months cementing the impression that he was in over his head.
Ms. Clark, on Monday, told reporters Mr. Bloy’s heart was in the right place and there is more to being in cabinet than being able to take the heat of Question Period and media scrums.
“He’s always had a soft heart,” the Premier said in announcing the mini shuffle.
“Being a minister is not just about communicating in Question Period and in scrums – some of us have a little more skill and expertise in that kind of communication. But being minister is about a lot more than that.”
However, NDP Leader Adrian Dix said his concerns go deeper. Under Mr. Bloy’s watch over income and disability assistance, group homes were closed and the waitlist for services grew, he said.
“This is an admission of failure,” Mr. Dix said Monday. “She’s clearly reflected on the fact that he is not capable. But it doesn’t change anything for the families who are suffering.”
Last week, under intense pressure from families and advocacy groups, Mr. Bloy announced an $8.9-million boost to Community Living B.C., the agency that provides services for developmentally disabled adults throughout the province. The move was described by advocates as a Band-Aid.
Mr. Bloy has been replaced by Stephanie Cadieux, formerly minister of labour. Ms. Cadieux, in turn, has been replaced by Margaret MacDiarmid. A number of other changes were made in the mini-shuffle, but Ms. Clark left Shirley Bond with the dual portfolio of Attorney-General and Solicitor-General.
“It’s a refocusing of Harry Bloy’s responsibilities,” Ms. Clark told reporters. She avoided the term ‘demotion’ and stopped just short of saying Mr. Bloy’s appointment to cabinet was a mistake.
“If you were hoping I was going to be a Premier who made a decision and set it in stone and never revisited it. … I’m not that Premier,” she said. “I thought it was time to make a change.”
The Premier said Mr. Bloy will be able to devote his energies to an area of policy that is important to B.C. in his new junior cabinet portfolio of minister of state for multiculturalism.
“It’s an area that requires attention across government,” she said, “and it’s an area where he has a lot of experience.”