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Majority of BC’s participating voters agree to electoral reform

Four Dutch Canadians appointed to new cabinet

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

VANCOUVER, BC – Re-elected Dutch Canadian Members of BC’s provincial legislature all have been appointed to a down-sized cabinet by Premier Gordon Campbell. He also elevated to cabinet a fourth Dutch Canadian MLA, a newcomer. None of the portfolios involve key-ministries.

Feisty veteran Michael de Jong, a lawyer, who served a full four-year term (2001-2005) as forestry minister, has taken over as Minister of Labour and Citizens’ Services and now occupies a dual role as Government House Leader. The Abbotsford politician first was elected MLA in 1994.

Former Chilliwack mayor John Les, who previously served as Minister of Small Business and Economic Development, was moved into the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor-General. First elected as MLA in 2001, Les as mayor did a stint as president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. His parents immigrated from Goeree-Overflakkee, Zuid Holland.

A dairy farmer who served a full term as Minister of Agriculture, Abbotsford MLA John van Dongen returns to cabinet as Minister of State for Intergovernmental Relations. Van Dongen, whose parents hail from Brabant, was first elected in a 1995 byelection.

Newcomer Olga Verhoeven Ilich enters the legislature for Richmond as Minister of Tourism, Sports and the Arts. An entrepreneur, Ilich is the founder of Suncor Development Corporation, a real estate developer and builder. She served in a number of civic roles, including as Chair of the BC Assessment Authority. She is the only current MLA born in the Netherlands.

Dutch immigrant Ted Nebbeling, the former mayor of Whistler, who earlier served in the previous BC cabinet, did not run again for office. Two other members of cabinet with ties to the Dutch community also are absent. Parks minister Joyce Murray who is married to silvi-culture entrepreneur Dirk Brinkman became one of over 30 casualties of a resurging New Democratic Party. Former Deputy Premier and Education minister Christy Clark who is married to southwest Ontario-native Mark Marissen retired from polititics to care for her family.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the recent election campaign was the level of support for a different electoral system. Fifty-eight percent of BC voters supported a weighted vote, a blend of proportional representation, transferable vote and enlarged districts. The referendum is seen as the result of a long push for electoral reform, spearheaded by former MLA Nick Loenen’s citizen’s group. Loenen’s Fair Voting BC gained support across all party lines.