Stephen West – Chief of Staff, Office of the Premier
Influential Icon: Political haymaker
Premier Ralph Klein hailed the return of Stephen West as his new chief of staff with a particularly vivid sound bite for the Legislature’s press gallery.
We will see (the Liberals’) rear ends pucker, Klein crowed shortly after West’s Feb. 26 appointment. One of the reasons Steve West is coming back is to pound some common sense into the Liberals. Klein’s decision to appoint the man known around the Legislature as Dr. No was seen by veteran observers as a hard right turn for the government on issues such as health care reform. West, who was involved in privitizing liquor stores and deregulating electricity in the 1990s, had earned a fearsome reputation as the premier’s axe man while serving as Solicitor General, Minister of Energy and Treasurer prior to retiring from politics before the 2001 election. West, a veterinarian by profession, has also apparently cracked down on cabinet ministers who have strayed from Klein’s agenda. For all the media hype following his appointment, West – who once demanded that large colour TVs in provincial jails be replaced by 12-inch black-and-white sets – has kept a low profile, which may explain why he declined our request for an interview.