One shoe drops

Finance Minister Gary Collins has been put in charge of government communications - a position previously occupied by the premier's chief of staff Martyn Brown. That hands Minister Collins, who is also house leader and the co-chair for the provincial Liberal's re-election campaign, an unprecedented degree of political influence within the Campbell administration.

According to insiders, the fact he's been saddled with so much responsibility suggests the number of caucus members trusted by the premier is rather limited. But some worry whether Minister Collins, whose wife is expecting their second child, will be able to bear that burden.

In a scrum outside caucus, Minister Collins didn't provide a direct explanation for the extra workload. But he did say it, "frees up Martyn (Brown) to work very closely with the premier on what the next mandate of this government will be looking like." He denied any connection between being the minister responsible for the public affairs bureau and the Liberal's campaign co-chair.

Minister Collins also confirmed a new deputy minister responsible for the bureau will be appointed in the next couple days. But he declined to name names, except to say its executive director Andy Orr wasn't on the shortlist.

As for whether he'll be making any structural changes to government communications, Minister Collins said, "I expect once I have a chance to be briefed and have a sense of how things work I'll want to put my own stamp on it and do things differently."

He later added the private sector pays communications professionals, "a lot more. They attract a lot of our employees once they're trained up and have some experience. And obviously we want to be able to retain more of them" - perhaps suggesting a pay increase for bureau staffers?

The change took civil servants by surprise. An email was sent to bureau directors earlier this morning advising them to expect a change. But no further details were provided until government released a three-line information bulletin about the power transfer.

Earlier Public Eye reported rumours that Mr. Brown would be stepping aside and his position would be split into two, with one half being responsible for staffing and the other communications.

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