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Christy Clark deserves marks for chutzpah

You have to give Christy Clark credit. She campaigned for the Liberal leadership on a platform of change, interpreted her narrow victory as a mandate for change, and, on the day she became Premier she unveiled a cabinet that was nothing but change. One is tempted to say loose change, but never mind.

What to make of the new crew? Well, not everyone would have had the courage to design a cabinet that included Harry Bloy but not Dr. Moira Stilwell. So, full marks to Ms. Clark for chutzpah.

Shame on those political cynics who think Mr. Bloy's appointment to the Social Development portfolio had anything to do with the fact he was the only caucus member to have the foresight to back Ms. Clark's leadership bid.

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Christy may simply be wild about Harry. Clearly, she saw something in Mr. Bloy that was not evident to the previous premier, who left him languishing in backbench obscurity for the past 10 years.

And I'm sure Mr. Bloy will do just fine in his new portfolio, once, as he told bemused reporters on Monday, he talks to his staff and "gets a handle on it."

***Minimum wage headaches

Plaudits to the new woman at the top for finally boosting the province's pathetic, $8-an-hour minimum wage, lowest in the country (a buck behind hardscrabble New Brunswick, for goodness sake). It will feel good to bask once more in the same rarefied, economic air as Newfoundland, which has forced employers to pay workers at least $10 an hour since the beginning of the year.

Of course, that hasn't stopped the moaning from various local business organizations, predicting dire job losses and diminished profits from having to pay employees in this high-cost province a few cents more than the minimum wage in low-cost Nova Scotia.

How do those Maritime businesses manage to survive? Maybe we can send out a fact-finding mission. What's Patrick Kinsella doing these days?

***A few truths for de Jong

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Memo to the province's surprise new Health Minister, Mike de Jong.

As your predecessor Kevin Falcon learned very quickly, health is an incredibly complicated portfolio that does not lend itself to ideology, preconceived notions and cookie-cutter budgeting. Delivering effective public health care is not cheap, but no end product is more vital to the well-being of those who live here.

Muse all you want about private health-care options, as you did on the campaign trail, and sure, try out a few, provided the services are publicly funded. No problem. However, as other provinces have found, there is almost no evidence of savings to be gained from doing more in the private sector. Competition might help a tad, and access might be improved. But big savings? Forget about it.

***Thats a lot of Starbucks

Now that another new person, Neal Sweeney, is heading the government's Public Affairs Bureau, perhaps he can cut down on self-serving press releases churning out selective facts like the one produced Wednesday by the Ministry of Advanced Education, as hundreds of students advanced on the legislature to protest the high cost of education.

What are they carping about, the province's version of Pravda implied. Tuition fees have barely gone up at all since 2005. (No mention of the huge increases brought in before 2005.)

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Why, tut-tutted the ministry, all students had to do was buy one less cup of coffee a week to cover last year's small increase.

That's a terribly trite and belittling observation to hard-pressed B.C. students who, according to critics, receive the least amount of student aid in Canada and are burdened with the country's highest interest rate on student loans.

After four years in university, students here have an average debt load of $27,000, close to the most burdensome level in all the land.

Not to worry. As the Ministry of Advanced Education would say, just drink about 450 fewer cups of coffee a week for a year and get rid of that debt sucker. No more grounds for complaint, as it were.

***Apologies to the leader

It's not every day a prime minister gets to fend off Canuck fans seeking seatmate Trevor Linden's autograph, as Stephen Harper did Monday night. But sadly for our wild and crazy leader, it's been back to the mundane this week.

Take the latest exciting photo of the man in action on Thursday, as described by his hard-working staff: "Prime Minister Stephen Harper leaves the stage after highlighting the key themes of the Next Phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan in a speech to the Mississauga and Brampton Boards of Trade."

Not exactly a pulse-racer. All the way from 'He shoots, he scores' to 'He speaks, he bores' in just a few days. Okay, maybe his speech was a spellbinder, but I enjoyed writing that. Sorry, PM.

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