He managed Christy Clark’s leadership campaign and is considered a close friend, but Mike McDonald will soon be out as chief of staff as the B.C. Premier tries to strengthen her ties to Ottawa.
Ms. Clark has announced that, effective Feb. 15, Ken Boessenkool will take over the job. Mr. Boessenkool has served as senior policy adviser and strategist to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He’s also worked as a lobbyist for several prominent companies, including Calgary-based Enbridge Inc., which is top of mind in British Columbia because of its proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline project.
“[Mr. Boessenkool]is really close to Harper. It can do nothing but significantly increase the comfort level between Harper and Clark,” said Norman Ruff, political scientist and professor emeritus at the University of Victoria.
As chief of staff, Mr. Boessenkool will lead day-to-day operations at the Premier’s Office. Mr. McDonald will become principal secretary.
“Ken brings a ton of skills as a manager, and he brings a lot of skills in terms of the relationships he has right across the country, so I think his addition could make a real difference for us,” Ms. Clark said in an interview.
Ms. Clark was sworn in as Premier last March after winning the B.C. Liberal Party’s leadership campaign. The next provincial election will be in May, 2013.
The B.C. Liberal Party is a coalition of the centre and centre-right political spectrum and is not connected to the federal Liberals.
The B.C. Conservative Party, which has been gaining traction in the polls at the Liberals’ expense, was quick to criticize Mr. Boessenkool’s hiring.
“Premier Clark has appointed an Albertan super-lobbyist as her chief of staff,” B.C. Conservatives leader John Cummins wrote in a statement. “Instead of focusing on the economy, she is shuffling the deck chairs of the Titanic.”
Dr. Ruff said bringing Mr. Boessenkool in will defuse some of the unease about Ms. Clark’s conservative credentials. He said the move also shows the Liberals are taking the Conservatives’ rise quite seriously.
John Horgan, New Democrat MLA for Juan de Fuca, noted that Mr. Boessenkool lobbied for Enbridge in 2008 and 2009.
“The Premier’s focus is not necessarily on the interests of British Columbia, but on the interests of large corporations that are based in Alberta,” he said in an interview. “That’s not a good thing, particularly at a time when we’re opening up hearings and it’s the topical issue of the week, and will be for many months to come.”
Ms. Clark said concern about Mr. Boessenkool’s link to Enbridge is unwarranted.
“People, when they’re in the private sector, leave those things behind when they come to government,” she said. “The fact is, advisers advise, premiers decide.”
With a report from Gary Mason