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

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

(BC Hydro photo)
BC Hydro planned power outages to darken downtown Smithers for most of day Sunday, Jan 17

Replacement of poles will affect approximately 250 customers in downtown core from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Smithers Local Health Area reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 Jan. 3 - 9. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly new cases of COVID-19 rise to 25 in Smithers LHA Jan. 3 – 9

Northern Health reported 49 new daily cases for 497 active, 44 hospitalized, 13 in critical care

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

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

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read