Lana Popham walks into the Government House ballroom. John Horgan was sworn in as B.C.’s new premier and the new cabinet positions were announced at Government House in Victoria. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Two Saanich MLAs part of new NDP cabinet headed by Reynolds graduate

Wolfgang Depner

News Staff

Saanich’s presence runs strong through this cabinet.

As New Democrat John Horgan, a graduate of Saanich’s Reynolds Secondary, led his first cabinet meeting as Premier of B.C., two out of three local MLAs — Saanich South MLA Lana Popham and Victoria Swan-Lake MLA Rob Fleming — joined him as ministers of agriculture and education, respectively, in the 22-member, gender-balanced cabinet unveiled Tuesday.

Saanich’s third MLA — Andrew Weaver — is technically not a formal member of the new minority cabinet that assumed power Tuesday, but it is hard to overstate his influence. As leader of the B.C. Green Party, the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head has signed an agreement to support Horgan’s government for four years.

Without him and the other elected Greens — Adam Olsen representing Saanich North & the Islands and Sonia Furstenau representing Cowichan Valley — Horgan’s minority government would not exist now or in the future, as the New Democrats take power with no vote to spare under their governing agreement with the Greens. The Liberals hold 43 seats, while the New Democrats and Greens hold 44.

Add to that Horgan is a Reynolds grad who served at the local Keg and Ravi Kahlon, the Delta North MLA who grew up in Saanich and graduated from Lambrick Park before joining the national field hockey team.

The swearing-in of Horgan’s government held Tuesday marks a historic moment in the political history of British Columbia. For the first time in 16 years, a party other than the B.C. Liberals will govern the province. Horgan’s minority government is the first minority government since 1952-1953 and only the third in the history of British Columbia. Based on the available records, including SFU’s political scientist David Moscrop, it is the first minority government in British Columbia to assume power following a vote of non-confidence. Its fate hinges on a small party, which has been a familiar, but until recently, inconsequential force in provincial politics.

These circumstances give the new government a precarious, potentially fleeting, but also exciting feel, a fact not lost on the actors themselves.

“This minority government is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do politics differently in British Columbia,” said Weaver, in a statement. “We have an historic opportunity to put partisan politics aside and work together across party lines to advance good public policy that is in the best interests of British Columbians.”

Sounding wistful, but also energized, Popham tweeted a picture of her old office.

Neither the cabinet presence of Popham and Fleming nor their respective portfolios surprise. Both have been among the most senior members of the New Democratic caucus — Fleming since 2005, Popham since 2009 — and have shadowed their respective ministries for years as critics.

This pattern of critics becoming ministers appears across Horgan’s cabinet and can be read as an acknowledgement that the new government does not want to waste time in getting settled. Other examples include Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James becoming minister of finance and Vancouver-Fairview MLA George Heyman becoming minister of environment and climate change strategy. James, for her part, received the largest ovation from audience members at the ceremony when they heard that she would also serve as deputy premier.

Top priorities moving forward included the elimination of bridge tolls in Metro Vancouver and increasing income assistance rates by $100 a month. Horgan will also meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, then travel to Washington D.C. to fulfill a campaign pledge to personally assist in negotiations for a new softwood lumber trade agreement.

But looming above everything else were the wildfires raging across British Columbia. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Horgan and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson announced that the government would extend the provincial state of emergency for two weeks.

“This is unprecedented,” said Horgan. “Traditionally, when an emergency is declared, people are usually back in their homes within the two-week period. That may not be the case for many individuals, and in fact there are still those impacted by floods in the Okanagan and are out of their homes beyond the 14-day period. They too will be captured with this increase in funds.”

Horgan also spoke extensively about the fires Tuesday. He said he wants to get to work immediately “so the people in the Interior don’t have to go home to a burned-out community with no jobs.”

Here is the complete list of new NDP cabinet appointments:

Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training – Melanie Mark

Minister of Agriculture – Lana Popham

Attorney General – David Eby

Minister of Children and Family Development – Katrine Conroy

Minister of Child Care – Katrina Chen

Minister of Citizens’ Services – Jinny Sims

Minister of Education – Rob Fleming

Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources – Michelle Mungall

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy – George Heyman

Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier – Carole James

Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development – Doug Donaldson

Minister of Health – Adrian Dix

Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation – Scott Fraser

Minister of Jobs, Trade, and Technology – Bruce Ralston

Minister of State for Trade – George Chow

Minister of Labour – Harry Bains

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions – Judy Darcy

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing – Selina Robinson

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General – Mike Farnworth

Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction – Shane Simpson

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture – Lisa Beare

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure – Claire Trevena

Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism – Ravi Kahlon


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