NDP to unveil transition team today, cabinet soon

Now that he has the lieutenant-governor’s blessing, premier-designate John Horgan’s next challenge is assembling the right team — from naming his cabinet to staffing the legislature.

The first announcement is expected today, when the B.C. NDP plans to reveal the transition team that will help it form government, Victoria-Beacon Hill NDP MLA Carole James said.

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“I think the priority is getting the transition team together and making sure that staff are in place for that transition and all the work ahead,” James said.

The transition team will review finances, staffing and portfolios, as well as the briefing binders prepared by civil servants in each ministry that outline short- and long-term issues.

“Those are the nuts and bolts of government. But the big work that John will lead, with a transition team to help, will be focusing on the pieces that we committed to in our platform,” James said.

Horgan has already said he won’t wait for the legislature to be recalled, which is expected to happen around Labour Day, before moving on priorities that don’t require new legislation. That includes sending the Site C dam project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review and starting a fair-wages commission to move toward a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

James identified the fentanyl-overdose crisis and housing affordability as among the priorities for Greater Victorians. The NDP will create a new ministry of mental health and addictions, and adjust the residential tenancy branch to create more balance in the supports for landlords and tenants, James said.

Meanwhile, many political spectators are watching to see who will win a cabinet position.

Horgan has begun that process, too, James said.

“All of us MLAs met individually with John to talk about what we felt our strengths were and what we felt we could offer. So we all wait for the call. I’m sure all of us gave the same response as I did, which was: ‘I’m here to serve you as our leader and I’ll do whatever you want me to do to make sure the team is successful and the government is successful,’ ” James said.

A decision on the cabinet is expected within two to three weeks.

Norman Ruff, associate professor emeritus in political science at the University of Victoria, said in an email that the cabinet choice is significant. It is also “said historically to conceal the very first mistake by every premier, as you can’t anticipate ‘that one not quite up to it,’ ” he wrote.

As part of a minority government, most of the 40 NDP MLAs serving under Horgan will get power positions — including about 20 cabinet roles, a dozen parliamentary secretary spots and potentially a Speaker and deputy Speaker, said Michael Prince, Lansdowne professor of social policy at UVic.

“So pretty well everyone, including rookies, will be pressed into action on the front lines,” Prince said.

The NDP is preparing for Horgan’s swearing-in ceremony, which a spokeswoman said would occur in the coming weeks. Ruff expects it to happen before the summer meeting of Canada’s premiers in Edmonton, set for July 17 to 19.

Crafting a throne speech might be easier than usual, given that outgoing Premier Christy Clark’s throne speech borrowed heavily from the NDP platform, Prince said.

“Have you heard of cut and paste?” Prince joked. “That will be the question — how different is his from theirs?”

In the meantime, MLAs such as James have been taking advantage of some rare free time to be with family, as well as preparing for the coming term. James said she has been spending time with her grandkids, attending meetings and dealing with to-do lists.

“I’ve also been spending a lot of time, and I know other MLAs have as well, thinking about the responsibilities ahead. While there’s a lot of excitement and we’re ready to go, it’s a big responsibility. People are counting on us and they’ve been waiting for a new leadership. They’ve been waiting for a change.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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