Premier Christy Clark is bringing home a senior federal civil servant to handle special projects in her office as the government appears to have ruled out an imminent election to focus on a governing agenda.
Athana Mentzelopoulos is the new Deputy Minister for Corporate Priorities in Victoria, filling a post that has been vacant since Ms. Clark became Premier earlier this year.
To take the new assignment, Ms. Mentzelopoulos has left her post as director general of the Consumer Product Safety Directorate at Health Canada.
But her new post will be a kind of homecoming. Ms. Mentzelopoulos is a former B.C. deputy minister of intergovernmental relations and former deputy minister of the Public Affairs Bureau that once handled government relations.
In Victoria, Ms. Mentzelopoulos will be working under John Dyble, deputy minister to the Premier, cabinet secretary and head of the BC Public Service.
Shane Mills, speaking Thursday for Ms. Clark, said Ms. Mentzelopoulos’s responsibilities will include “high-priority files” as assigned by Mr. Dyble.
“We have an agenda that the Premier ran on, and we have done a lot, but there’s more we want to implement so I think Athana will be a great asset in getting the Premier’s vision complete. She’s got a record of getting things done,” said Mr. Mills. “It was an opportunity to get someone of Athana’s calibre in. She has worked in the provincial government before, with distinction, so it’s a good fit.”
Political scientist Norman Ruff said he expected Ms. Mentzelopoulos would help generate more policies in Ms. Clark’s office, noting that the rookie Premier has been “policy light” and too much oriented around communications. “She’s been very reactive,” he said of Ms. Clark.
Ms. Mentzelopoulos, he said, “fills a much-needed gap.”
The professor emeritus at the University of Victoria said he expects Ms. Clark’s administration may be hunkering down, ruling out the provincial election that appeared an option for this fall. “The election may not come as early as some people think, but few people are betting on May, 2013,” he said, referring to the scheduled date for the next vote.
Ms. Clark has frequently said she would like her own mandate from voters, leading to speculation about an election as early as this fall.