British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Horgan’s NDP cabinet built to tackle pandemic, economic recovery, says former premier

Seven former NDP cabinet ministers didn’t seek re-election, creating vacancies in several high-profile portfolios

Former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt says he understands the balancing act that John Horgan is facing as he is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday during a pandemic that’s threatening lives and the economy.

When he was putting together a cabinet almost 30 years ago after the New Democrats won a majority government, Harcourt said the province was soon plunged into the so-called war in the woods between forest companies and environmentalists in Clayoquot Sound.

After Horgan won 57 of 87 seats in last month’s B.C. election, the pandemic and its impact on people’s health and the economy will be the constant focus of the new cabinet, said Harcourt.

“John has some very positive but challenging choices to make,” he said in an interview. “We had some big challenges to deal with, just like now with the challenges of COVID-19 and the recovery to come to grips with.”

Harcourt said he expects the cabinet will be larger than the premier and 22 members in place before the election was called in September.

Seven former NDP cabinet ministers didn’t seek re-election, creating vacancies in several high-profile portfolios including forests, energy, transportation, poverty reduction, mental health and addictions, and Indigenous relations.

Among the former ministers Horgan must replace is Carole James, his finance minister and deputy premier.

“You can’t replace Carole James,” Harcourt said. “She’s a gem. She’s going to be impossible to replace but I think he’s got good people there who have proven themselves as pretty capable ministers.”

Among the newcomers who could be in line for cabinet jobs are three former members of Parliament: Nathan Cullen, Fin Donnelly and Murray Rankin. NDP backbenchers Bowinn Ma and Sheila Malcolmson are also potential new ministers.

“He’s in a good spot,” Harcourt said. “He’s got seven slots there and he’s going to increase another three or so, that’s 10, and then you’ve got the parliamentary secretaries he can appoint. He’s got lots of flexibility there and lots of talent to choose from.”

While the people appointed to cabinet is intriguing, their duties will also signal the government’s approach to the pandemic and economic recovery, said Prof. Kim Speers, a Canadian politics expert at the University of Victoria.

“I’m interested in the people but I’m also interested in how he is going to organize the next government,” she said. “What is the structure going to look like for the different ministries? What are they going to be called? Is there going to be a ministry that just deals with the pandemic recovery?”

Speers said the government has already forecast record budget deficits during the pandemic, but she’s looking for a cabinet that keeps its focus on the bottom line.

“We should be planning and managing for recovery that also takes into account future generations,” she said.

Indigenous leader Cheryl Casimer said First Nations are looking for a major presence at the cabinet table.

“It’s going to be important to have somebody who has a strong voice and is able to speak on issues and to be able to solicit change,” said Casimer, a political executive at the First Nations Summit.

B.C. became the first province in Canada to pass legislation last year to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Judy Darcy, the former minister of mental health and addictions, said the pandemic exacerbated the issues of affordability, housing and addiction, which the government had been grappling with since the 2017 election.

The new cabinet will continue to face those challenges, said Darcy, who didn’t seek re-election.

“The team is going to have a major focus on keeping people safe, healthy and secure both through the pandemic and beyond,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any question that there will be an even greater focus on the pandemic and the economic recovery.”

READ MORE: B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC NDPCoronavirusJohn Horgan

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Corsac the cat is up for adoption at Critteraid.
Critteraid hosts three adoption Sundays

More than 40 cats looking for their forever homes

Abigail McCluskey is in the Netherlands training to compete in the World Cup next month. She joins 12 Canadian speedskaters for the international competition later this month. (Dave Holland CSI Calgary)
Penticton speed skater in Netherlands for World Cup

Abigail McCluskey will be skating the long track in the international competition

Summerland Middle School
COVID exposure at Summerland Middle School

The person who tested positive was at school Jan. 11

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A map released by the BCCDC on Jan. 15 shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for each local health area between Jan. 3 and 9. (BCCDC Image)
Salmon Arm and Vernon see increase in new COVID cases, curve flattening elsewhere

The rate of new cases is levelling off in Kelowna, Penticton and Revelstoke.

When people talk about Blue Monday, they really mean Seasonal Affective Disorder, according to CMHA Kelowna. (Pixabay)
CMHA Kelowna offers tips for managing winter blues during COVID-19

CMHA says it’s important to take care of mental well-being during these times

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

A heavy police presence near Penticton Secondary last Thursday, Jan. 14 was due to an erratic driver, a woman, 28, who was arrested. (Brennan Phillips Western News)
RCMP arrest impaired driver who rammed car near Penticton school

A 28-year-old woman was arrested at the scene

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Kelowna church fined a second time for violating public health order

Harvest Ministries in Kelowna has previously said they will fight the tickets in court

Okanagan Forest Task Force clean up took place on May 9 along Postill Lake Road. (Okanagan Forest Task Force)
Okanagan cleanup taskforce gears up for new year

The crew assisted in getting about 60 illegal dumpers ticketed

Bastion Elementary was open Monday, Jan. 17, after one case of COVID-19 was confirmed among the school community. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
COVID-19 case confirmed at second Salmon Arm elementary school

Member of Bastion Elementary community self-isolating, students allowed to attend school

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

sdf
2nd in-school violence incident in Mission, B.C, ends in arrest

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

Most Read