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

Just Posted

Scooters lined up for an educational event in Stuart Park on Wednesday, June 16. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
Free e-scooter safety training in Kelowna

Shared e-scooter operators collaborate to educate riders

The suspect reportedly assaulted a security guard and robbed him. The incident happened at a Kelowna hotel. (Contributed)
Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Employees at Playtime Casino wait outside while firefighters inspect the building after a small storage room fire on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Small fire at Kelowna’s Playtime Casino as staff preps to re-open

Fire ignited in the storage room, but the staff were able to put it out

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A mother stands with her daughter, visiting senior parents but observing social distancing with a glass door between them.  The granddaughter puts her hand up to the glass, the grandfather and grandmother doing the same.  A small connection in a time of separation during the Covid-19 pandemic (Valley First/Contributed).
Have your say on which Okanagan, Thompson, Similkameen charities get donation

Valley First seeks public help to distribute $250,000 to local charities via social media campaign

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vernon Courthouse. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Sentencing delayed in North Okanagan child pornography case

Man who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography will have new sentence date fixed next week

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

People decided to tag Skaha Bluffs rocks which the Ministry has to go in and now clean up. (Facebook)
Bluffs at popular Penticton rock climbing park defaced

Ministry of Environment is going to clean it up

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Most Read