Rothenburger: Hard to replace some in cabinet

There's been a lot of sermonizing the last few days about how the Liberal cabinet ministers who've announced they won't run again are all a bunch of scoundrels, so good riddance.

Premier Christy Clark replaced them yesterday with a reshuffled lineup but, with few exceptions, it's uninspiring.

Of most immediate local interest is that Terry Lake remains in the tough environment portfolio, but who are these people who sit around the cabinet table and run our lives?

Are they truly the incarnation of evil out to take our money and line the pockets of their friends?

In a word, no. They're just folks with certain political preferences who sometimes make good decisions, sometimes not so much. Some of them have even done some good for Kamloops.

Kevin Falcon, for example, is the man who wrote a $4-million cheque for the expansion of the Kamloops Airport runway more than a half dozen years ago while he was transportation minister. I was at the meeting when he came through with that commitment, and while it took a lot of lobbying to get the money, the project wouldn't have happened without Falcon onside.

Though Falcon has often been described as ambitious, there's nothing wrong with that. He's not been arrogant, and always approachable.

It takes guts to accept the job of dealing with a hugely unpopular decision, as he did with the HST. As he put it sardonically while stumping the province speaking at rubber-chicken lunches, "I'm living the HST dream."
Now let me tell you about George Abbott, the man from Shuswap, the guy many Kamloops Liberals wanted to become party leader.

On TV and radio clips he often sounds a bit grumpy, as if he's having a bad day. But away from the cameras and microphones, he's a very funny guy, possessing a droll sense of humour that immediately surfaces in casual conversation.

And he has a skill that I've never seen in another politician - remembering people he meets. Politicians meet dozens, even hundreds of people every day. Nobody expects them to remember who they are, and they usually don't.

The polite thing to do when being introduced to a politician, if you've been introduced to him or her on some other occasion, is to say, "Hi, Mister Abbott, very nice to see you again," rather than "We've met before."

With George Abbott, however, he'll remind you if you've met before, though it might have been months or even years ago. It's a gift, the ability to remember faces and names.

I know less about Blair Lekstrom, the transportation minister and MLA for Peace River South. I can say, though, that I've watched him chair a meeting or two, and in my books he's one of the best I've seen at handling an agenda and staying on task.

As for those who remain, by far the strongest voice is Mike de Jong, who takes over finance from Falcon. He, too, has spent a lot of time in Kamloops and knows the city.

(As for Shirley Bond, who also stays in cabinet, Kamloops wouldn't have received university status for TRU if she'd had her way. Her view was that we should be happy with a university college.)

The politics of a person don't make him or her good or evil. By any political scorecard, some of those pulling the plug were good at the job.

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