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Premier Christy Clark shuffles senior staff

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark's office grew today with the appointment of former federal Conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool as her chief of staff.

Boessenkool was at one point manager of Clark's campaign to lead the BC Liberal Party, but resigned after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office asked Conservatives not to take formal positions in the provincial race.

As chief of staff starting Feb. 15 he replaces Mike McDonald, who Clark has described as one of her oldest friends. McDonald, in turn, takes Dimitri Pantazopoulos' job as Clark's principal secretary. Pantazopoulos stays on as a senior advisor to the premier, with a focus that includes federal-provincial relations.

Clark's office provided details in a press release, half an hour after Conservative Leader John Cummins issued his own statement on the appointment. "Premier Clark has appointed an Albertan super-lobbyist as her chief of staff," said Cummins. "Today is further proof that the only people getting ahead in Liberal BC are lobbyists, cronies and insiders."

Cummins noted that Boessenkool has lobbied for large companies including the Bank of Nova Scotia, Cameco and GlaxoSmithKline.

Clark's press release said Boessenkool is a public policy consultant and a fellow at the University of Calgary who has been a senior advisor and stategist for Harper.

"Mr. Boessenkool will manage operations of the Premier's office, including management of the cabinet process and personnel," it said. "Mr. McDonald will be responsible for strategic planning on policy and communications, and liaising with the Government Caucus."

Last month Clark had the head of the government communications and engagement branch, Neil Sweeney, trade jobs with the corporate priorites deputy minister, Athana Mentzelopoulos.

Recent polls have shown support for the provincial Conservative party growing while that for the Liberals have dropped. Both are behind the NDP.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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