John Horgan was sworn in as B.C. premier on Tuesday and announced a cabinet that has fellow Vancouver Islanders in major roles, including Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James as deputy premier and finance minister.
James, a former B.C. NDP leader, received a standing ovation when she was sworn in.
Horgan, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, has five Islanders in his cabinet. In addition to James, they are:
• Saanich South MLA Lana Popham, Agriculture
• Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming, Education
• Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
• North Island MLA Claire Trevena, Transportation and Infrastructure.
The NDP premier and cabinet were sworn in at Government House before a cheering crowd of about 500 in a ceremony led by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.
With 11 men and 11 women, the cabinet has gender parity for the first time.
New titles — such as minister of state for child care — signal some of the government’s priorities.
Choosing who would join his cabinet wasn’t easy, Horgan said after the ceremony.
“It is a difficult job. Over the months, I’ve been sitting in airports, waiting for connections and scribbling on the backs of sheets of foolscap,” he said.
“I wanted to make sure the people of B.C. saw themselves reflected in their cabinet. We have experienced people, we have new people and a caucus that makes sure we are able to deliver for British Columbians.”
The previously announced Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions will be headed by New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy, formerly the NDP health critic.
“Everyone’s been given a significant task to do in the executive council, but none, I think, greater than Judy’s,” Horgan said.
“We have to create a new ministry and that means working within existing structures across government to bring together the component parts that have been addressing mental health and addictions.”
The NDP has only four MLAs outside the southwest corner of B.C. and three were named to cabinet. A fourth, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, is a parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness.
The New Democrats take office with a one-seat edge over the Liberals after reaching a deal with the three Green members elected on May 9. The Liberals won 43 of the 87 seats in the legislature, but the government of Christy Clark was defeated in a confidence vote last month.
Clark spent her last day as premier meeting with wildfire evacuees and volunteers at a reception centre in Kamloops. She said people continue to tell her how grateful they are for the help they have received.
Doug Donaldson will oversee the wildfire crisis as the NDP’s new forests minister. He said he would get to work immediately, starting with a conversation with the Liberal MLA previously in charge of the emergency response.
“I’m going to be phoning [former forests minister] John Rustad. He’s agreed to work with me to ensure we have a smooth transition, because the whole wildfire situation is totally a non-partisan issue.”
Horgan said the celebration was bittersweet, given that his day began with a briefing on the wildfire situation.
“I want to commit to those who are in distress today that these
11 men and 11 women will be working as hard as we can to ensure that we get through this crisis and you are back in your homes safe and building a future for your families in this great province,” Horgan said in his first speech as premier.
“We’ve been in caretaker mode, the government of B.C. And I commend the public service for continuing to provide services for people,” he said. “But I understand through the transition team that there’s a lot of work to be done that’s been waiting for ministerial direction and direction from the executive council, so we’ll be getting at that first thing [Wednesday] morning.”
Horgan thanked his family, including two sons and his “beautiful, spectacular, stellar wife,” Ellie, for their support throughout his political career.
He also saluted his high school basketball coach, who was present for the swearing-in ceremony, and others for instilling the values his mother taught him and his siblings. His father died from a brain aneurysm when Horgan was 18 months old.
“I am only here because of you. I’m only here because of the goodwill of other people,” Horgan said.
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver congratulated Horgan and his cabinet.
“This minority government is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do politics differently in British Columbia,” Weaver said in a statement. “We have a historic opportunity to put partisan politics aside and work together across party lines to advance good public policy that is in the best interest of British Columbians.”
Advanced Education, Skills and Training: Melanie Mark
Agriculture: Lana Popham
Attorney General: David Eby
Children and Family Development: Katrine Conroy
Minister of State for Child Care: Katrina Chen
Citizens’ Services: Jinny Sims
Education: Rob Fleming
Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources: Michelle Mungall
Environment and Climate Change Strategy: George Heyman
Finance and Deputy Premier: Carole James
Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: Doug Donaldson
Health: Adrian Dix
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: Scott Fraser
Jobs, Trade and Technology: Bruce Ralston
Minister of State for Trade: George Chow
Labour: Harry Bains
Mental Health and Addictions: Judy Darcy
Municipal Affairs and Housing: Selina Robinson
Public Safety and Solicitor General: Mike Farnworth
Social Development and Poverty Reduction: Shane Simpson
Tourism, Arts and Culture: Lisa Beare
Transportation and Infrastructure: Claire Trevena