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Does Christy Clark have the courage to cut caucus thorns?

Christy Clark, then vying for the B.C. Liberal leadership, makes an announcement in North Vancouver on Feb. 18, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

Christy Clark may eventually lose count of the challenging decisions she will make as B.C. premier. But she has been making some of the toughest in the past week while building the cabinet she will unveil Monday.

It's supposed to be smaller than the cabinet of her predecessor Gordon Campbell. Despite her efforts to back off the point, it will also have to embody the change mantra that helped the former education minister, returning to politics after four years as a radio talk show host, win the leadership on Feb. 26.

So it's smaller, embodies change, and, oh yes, four spaces will inevitably be reserved for four ex-cabinet ministers who also sought the leadership.

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The leadership rivals include Kevin Falcon, the former health minister, who would probably be a strong finance minister given his brash eloquence - qualities that might help sell the controversial harmonized sales tax in a petition-forced referendum coming in June.

But Mr. Falcon has openly told reporters he doesn't want the finance job, drawing an unusual line in the sand for Ms. Clark to cross if she decides to overrule him.

She may have to. "It will be interesting to see if she has the willingness to make some really tough decisions here," says Hamish Telford, head of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley.

A smaller cabinet means dropping MLAs, members of a caucus where only one member actually backed Ms. Clark during the leadership race. Copious firings could challenge Ms. Clark's efforts to hold the team together.

"I think who is dropped, in some sense, is more important that who's included. It gives us some sense of, 'Is she able to make difficult decisions,'" Prof. Telford says.

Colin Hansen may embody a difficult decision. The current finance minister is respected in the party, but also - on Mr. Campbell's orders - the guy who brought in the despised tax that ended the former premier's political career. Mr. Hansen resorted to a Twitter posting to declare he was sticking around, and not vacating his seat - which would have represented a safe by-election option for Ms. Clark.

"Does she have the courage and conviction to say, 'OK. This guy is out because he is responsible for getting us into this [HST]mess in the first place,'" Prof. Telford wonders.

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British Columbians will be waiting for the Monday afternoon ceremony at the Government House residence of the Lieutenant-Governor in Victoria to see Ms. Clark's cabinet making skills - an art combining both basic construction and sleight of hand.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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