Wednesday December 7, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC [Last update: December 9, 2022]
Political commentary by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
In these days just ahead of the holiday season break, NDP BC Premier David Eby has announced his new Cabinet (executive council).
He has hoped to strike the right chord for further unfolding his priorities in health care and housing, while also maintaining a steady hand in climate resiliency and the overall economy that is impacted from many directions during supply chain interruptions and worker shortages resulting from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and rising fuel prices.
David Eby (MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey) was recently sworn in as BC’s 37th premier on November 18.
The official cabinet announcement was at 10 am today, at Government House. Ahead of that, the soon-to-be-sworn-in Cabinet members walked up the driveway outside Government House, to a crowd of well-wishers and media, as well as some anti-fracking protesters.
Speeches and process:
Premier David Eby announced his new Cabinet with simple pride and not a lot of fanfare.
After a brief speech by Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin and also briefly by Premier Eby, the new Cabinet ministers were collectively sworn in as a group, on stage in front of a full-house audience (including in the balconies), and then their portfolios were announced one by one.
Signing the official record alongside Austin was followed for each new Cabinet minister by a walk across the stage for a handshake and photo with the premier.
Composition of the new Cabinet:
The BC Cabinet is still gender-balanced (noted by Eby as part of his announcement), and has two new ministries (Housing and also Emergency Management and Climate Readiness).
There are 23 ministers and four ministers of state. The Cabinet will be supported in its work by 14 parliamentary secretaries.
Staying in the same portfolios:
A strong baseline from the previous Cabinet (ministers keeping their portfolios) was maintained: Adrian Dix – Health; Mitzi Dean – Children & Family Development; Mike Farnworth – Public Safety and Solicitor General; Rob Fleming – Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink); George Heyman – Environment and Climate Change Strategy; and Murray Rankin – Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
All of those ministries continue uninterrupted, with significant work-in-progress.
Dix received significant applause from the full audience in the ballroom, clearly in recognition of his handling of the pandemic.
People are certainly impressed with Dix’s fluent French as well; he was maintained in the new Cabinet as Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.
New ministers and ministries:
Two new ministries are being created as a way to “devote more attention and resources to major issues that impact British Columbians”: Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness. (After the federal election in 2021, a new ministry of Emergency Management was similarly created, similarly separated off from Public Safety.)
Eby said today — seemingly with a bit of surprise — that BC has been hit harder by climate change than other parts of Canada. In the past two years there has been a heat dome and massive flooding, on top of several years of extreme wildfire scenarios.
- New Finance Minister: Katrine Conroy (formerly in Forests)
- New Attorney General: Niki Sharma
- Shift to Housing (and Govt House Leader): Ravi Kahlon (formerly headed up Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation)
- Shift into Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation: Josie Osborne (formerly heading up Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship)
- *New* Emergency Management Minister/Ministry: Emergency Management and Climate Readiness was given to Bowinn Ma
- New in leading Agriculture and Food: Pam Alexis (MLA for Abbotsford-Mission)
- Shifting into Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport: Lana Popham (formerly Agriculture and Food)
- The Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship (Fisheries) — created earlier this year by former Premier John Horgan — was handed to Nathan Cullen.
Housing and Attorney General:
Kahlon got some hefty applause, reflecting his handling of the economic recovery file during and following the pandemic, as did Niki Sharma as the new Attorney General (the first south Asian woman to hold the role).
They both held a separate news conferences, after the Premier addressed media.
Kahlon spoke about moving forward with housing goals, and Sharma gave some good first impressions.
Eby said that Sharma has done some good legal work to community benefit, which impressed him.
Key priorities for Eby:
Premier Eby has stated health care as a priority in recent weeks (making several announcements in support of boosting the availability of doctors to more British Columbians). But in the media scrum the questions were more about housing and also why he picked certain MLAs for their new (or continued) roles.
With 100,000 people having arrived in BC last year (and about 80,000 expected by year-end this year), a boost in the availability and attainability of housing (including rental accommodation) is a top priority for the new premier. Eby held the housing portfolio before he became the party leader. Now Kahlon will have the lead on that issue for British Columbians.
Eby and Kahlon both acknowledged the labour shortage component of the construction industry, and are attentive to the trades training needs in that area.
The Finance Ministry is now in the hands of Katrine Conroy (formerly the Forestry minister), who seems to have impressed Eby with her ‘rural toughness’, emphasizing that she is a hunter. Political in-roads for the NDP in rural areas would be a boon for the party in the future election (presently set for October 2024).
While it might have seemed like a ‘demotion’ for Selina Robinson to be parted from the Finance file that she managed during the second phase of the pandemic (after former Finance Minister Carole James stepped back from politics), she seemed pleased today with her new role as Minister of Post Secondary and Future Training. Earlier this week she heard from Environment, Sustainability and Governance experts (at a meeting in Victoria) that some new and nuanced directions in post-secondary training will be key to boosting the supply of workers (as better matched to current and future jobs). BC is expecting about one million job openings over the next 10 years, about 80% of which will require some level of post-secondary training (as announced in February this year).
When asked why Mitzi Dean was maintained in Children and Family Development (after Eby very recently chose to retract the centralization of health care which would have resulted in no direct payments for autism-diagnosed children), the premier convincingly expressed his satisfaction with Dean’s ushering in of a big change for First Nations families and communities (leading to little or no separation of families when situations arise that would formerly have dictated that). Dean has built an entire career around improving social services for families.
When asked why Lana Popham was moved from Agriculture — herself a farmer and clearly passionate about the Agriculture ministry that she had headed for five years — the Premier was solid in his reply that he will be needing strong results in the Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport arena (noting the major high profile sporting events coming up in BC between now and 2027, which would include the Invictus Games in Vancouver in 2025, and the FIFA World Cup in 2026). Popham will be one of the prominent BC faces of those events to Canada and the world. That’s quite a compliment.
Vancouver Island MLAs:
Vancouver Island MLAs who have remained in cabinet are: Mitzi Dean (Esquimalt-Metchosin), Rob Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake), Sheila Malcolmson (Nanaimo), Josie Osborne (Mid Island-Pacific Rim), Lana Popham (Saanich South), and Murray Rankin (Oak Bay – Gordon Head).
All of those were steadfast performers — and favourites — in the previous Horgan cabinet.
Also in Cabinet is Grace Lore (Victoria-Beacon Hill) — as Minister of State for Child Care. She was formerly in the Gender Equity parliamentary secretary portfolio.
Of course there is — now historically speaking — a huge gaping hole in the Cabinet contingent from Vancouver Island, and that’s the now former Premier John Horgan (who currently remains MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, after stepping back from the grind of being premier upon having faced cancer treatment in the past year). Though, as a footnote, Horgan is evidently still contributing to the political workings of the Canada Health Transfer, behind the scenes.
Food sustainability in BC:
Eby today said that food production within BC is important.
The Fraser Valley region still remains vulnerable to flooding, and only about three percent of food on Vancouver Island is produced here on the island.
The premier today said that the new Agriculture Minister Pam Alexis will be expected to boost BC food production, including for export.
Staying in Cabinet but shifting to Citizens’ Services is Lisa Beare. She was formerly the Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister and ably took part of the hit for Horgan when the BC Museum renovation/rebuild project failed (something that was previously handled by MLA Melanie Mark who is no longer in Cabinet).
Staying in Cabinet but shifting (from Education and Child Care) to Mental Health and Addictions, Jennifer Whiteside is clearly relied upon as a steady hand at the helm, taking on now a second ministry that involves the nuances of larger social issues as well as intricate details.
Mike Farnworth stays as Public Safety and Solicitor General, with now ICBC in the portfolio name. He will have a full plate with all the Policing Act changes underway in BC.
Quietly and firmly, Harry Bains carries on as the Labour Minister.
Municipal Affairs shifts over to Anne Kang, who has done a respectable job across the province as Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training.
Environment and Climate Change Strategy has been in good hands with George Heyman — including on the international stage, and he continues in that role.
Bruce Ralston is now Minister of Forests, and Minister Responsible for Consular Corps — moving from Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation.
Dan Coulter had been the Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility, and is now the Minister of State for Infrastructure and Transit, working under Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink) Minister Rob Fleming.
After her efforts in the Mental Health and Addictions file, Sheila Malcolmson has been moved over to Social Development and Poverty Reduction (formerly held by Nicholas Simons, who is no longer in cabinet).
Gently moving up:
The new Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation (JEDI) is Brenda Bailey, in her first role as a Cabinet minister. Her work will be underpinned by Jagrup Brar as the new Minister of State for Trade.
Grace Lore has been moved up from being a parliamentary secretary (Gender Equity) to now Minister of State for Child Care, working under the new Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh.
Former Minister of State for Child Care, Katrina Chen, requested to not be included in Premier Eby’s new cabinet, for personal reasons in her own family life. Just earlier this week she was included as a speaker in Eby’s child care announcement alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Vancouver.
Selina Robinson heads into post-secondary portfolio (December 7, 2022)
Economists see housing and risk-vs-uncertainty as key challenges in 2023 (December 6, 2022)
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===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is a professional news portal at islandsocialtrends.ca .
Fully online since mid-2020, Island Social Trends emerged from the extensive groundwork of previous print publications in the west shore: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Since 2008, journalist and editor Mary P Brooke has taken an analytical socioeconomic lens to the news of the Greater Victoria west shore and south Vancouver Island region, including BC provincial news, and national news impacts.
Ms Brooke’s career in journalism, curriculum and publishing goes back to the 1980s. She is also a career-long entrepreneur (including real estate, online training, retail, and publishing). She holds a B.Sc. in nutrition and community health education, and a university certificate in Public Relations.