Skip to main content

They say a crisis focuses the mind. In that case, B.C.'s new NDP government, which officially assumed office on Tuesday, should have no problem becoming engrossed with the many challenges at hand.

Wildfires that have laid waste to vast tracts of the province's Interior, and that have forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents, provided a sombre backdrop to what normally is a jubilant event: the swearing-in of a new premier and his cabinet.

An emergency that until Tuesday was the problem of the outgoing Liberal government of Christy Clark is now NDP Premier John Horgan's dilemma with which to deal, just like the softwood lumber dispute, the opioid epidemic, the critical shortage of affordable housing. The list goes on.

Story continues below advertisement

It's one thing to scream from the opposition benches about what a terrible job the government is doing about these and other matters; it's quite another to suddenly have the roles reversed and become the ones being judged. I'm sure there are some Liberal MLAs, including former premier Christy Clark herself, who are looking forward to the first Question Period this fall.

BC NDP takes power: The big issues and the people John Horgan has appointed to handle them

Gary Mason: In B.C., Liberals' crises suddenly became the NDP's problems

The cabinet Mr. Horgan unveiled at Government House is an ethnically diverse, gender-balanced mix of experience and youth. To that extent, it reflects the NDP caucus perfectly. There weren't a great deal of surprises in his picks, although giving 39-year-old David Eby the attorney-general's portfolio will certainly raise eyebrows in legal circles.

It wasn't that long ago Mr. Eby was making a name for himself as the front-person for the Pivot Legal Society, an often brash advocacy group fighting for the rights of the downtrodden and mistreated. The province's attorney-general was often the target of its wrath. Now Mr. Eby is that person. Strange where life takes you sometimes.

If Mr. Eby's appointment was somewhat unexpected, Carole James's new job as finance minister and deputy premier was just the opposite. There may not be two closer allies in the new government than Mr. Horgan and Ms. James, who led the NDP for eight years and into two losing elections before being ousted by a caucus coup.

Mr. Horgan vehemently opposed the actions of his colleagues at the time and has stood by Ms. James ever since. In return, she offered her unwavering loyalty to Mr. Horgan when he took over the leadership. Ms. James, however, has a tough act to follow. The Liberals' Mike de Jong was one of the best finance ministers the province has had in years, a terrific communicator responsible for a string of five balanced budgets.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. James inherits books any finance minister in the country would kill for; she should send Mr. de Jong a note of thanks. She will have to deliver a budget before the end of September and it's difficult imagining it not easily being balanced thanks to a thriving provincial economy.

Another former NDP leader, Adrian Dix, is also in cabinet, to no one's disbelief. He is the province's new health minister, a portfolio in which he once served (to much acclaim) as opposition critic. Mr. Dix is a quick study who is extremely detail oriented, both assets that will serve him well in one of the most pressure-packed jobs in government.

Judy Darcy, the former national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, takes over an entirely new ministry: mental health and addictions. Previously, this was under the ambit of Ministry of Health. No more. There is a reason these two areas are getting special attention; together they represent a vexing and intractable public-health quandary. What Ms. Darcy makes of this new ministry will be very much up to her.

One of her immediate challenges will be the province's deadly opioid crisis, something Mr. Horgan has identified as an immediate priority.

What is evident from the makeup of the cabinet is how heavily weighted it is toward Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, the two regions that form the core of NDP support. Three MLAs from outside this area, Katrine Conroy from the Kootenays, Michelle Mungall from Nelson-Creston and Doug Donaldson from the Stikine, in northwestern B.C., all have a seat on the executive council.

But there is no one from the Interior and other areas of the north, which is a problem for the New Democrats. Mr. Horgan will undoubtedly want to devise a rural strategy to help return the party to favour in a large and important section of the province that has turned its back on the NDP in recent years.

Story continues below advertisement

On Tuesday, Mr. Horgan and his new team were all smiles, delighted by the reality the NDP was taking over government after 16 years of Liberal rule. On Wednesday, the smiles will dissipate and the hard part begins: governing.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter