Skip to main content

NDP Leader John Horgan says he is not necessarily looking for New Democrats to fill the jobs of deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers, describing his priority as finding “capable people”.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

BC NDP Leader John Horgan said he is confident New Democrats will be able to recruit the staff needed to get a government running, although the precarious situation in the Legislature could make the durability of those positions uncertain.

New Democrats plan to vote down the Liberal government as soon as this week and take power with the support of the third-place Green Party, but the NDP-Green alliance will have only a one-seat majority in the Legislature. That raises the possibility of the government falling sooner than the two parties' four-year agreement.

In Alberta, the NDP was elected in 2015 with a 10-seat majority that assured the party a full four-year term – and, for potential recruits, the promise of sustained employment.

READ MORE: Vancouver housing activists call for action at big-ticket BC NDP fundraiser

Despite a potentially fragile minority government, Mr. Horgan said he expects there will be people interested in working in Canada's newest NDP government.

"I think there are always people prepared to step up, and you don't have to be a partisan to want to work in government. You don't have to be a partisan to want to advance a new agenda," Mr. Horgan said in an interview.

For 16 years, British Columbia has been governed by the BC Liberals. While members of the public service are secure, a new NDP government will have to find scores of new political staff in the premier's office, and to support members of the new cabinet. There will also be a need for deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers.

Mr. Horgan said he is not necessarily looking for New Democrats to fill the jobs of deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers, describing his priority as finding "capable people" committed, despite their personal ideology, to delivering on the NDP agenda.

Mr. Horgan, who worked as a member of the provincial public service, said he recalled Social Credit appointees who understood the challenges NDP politicians faced in addressing policy issues.

"People are not going to have to flash an NDP card to find work in British Columbia nor should they be concerned if they have another political affiliation. I believe in free speech and free expression, but I also believe the government of the day should have the full support of the public service."

Some recruits, he said, may even be BC Liberals. "Once the government changes, I believe there will be no shortage of Liberals who also recognize that a new way of approaching government is also refreshing for them as well," Mr. Horgan said.

Mr. Horgan said the NDP-Green commitment to work together for four years should provide some security to those thinking of seeking work in the new government. "Those who are predicting our demise are premature," he said.

Glen Sanford, the deputy director of the BC NDP, said the party is already receiving resumes to fill jobs. "They are all being duly noted, but first things first," he said, noting the NDP is focused on engineering the defeat of the provincial Liberals in a confidence vote, and will then turn to confirming staff as part of an official transition process to a new government.

"Anyone who gets involved in this kind of political work doesn't do it for job security," Mr. Sanford suggested, explaining he expects there will be a commitment to being part of a process of enacting NDP priorities.

An additional lure, he said, may be the opportunity to work with a government influenced by the BC Green Party.

Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Greens, is also optimistic. "I think you'll find there are an awful lot of people who would like to take advantage of the exciting opportunity a minority government affords," he said in an interview.

The governance agreement signed by the NDP and Green MLAs includes a provision to consult on senior order-in-council appointments by the government.

Evert Lindquist, a professor in the school of public administration at the University of Victoria who has written on government transition, said the precarious nature of B.C.'s new government may work for and against the recruitment of staff.

On one hand, the challenge for prospective staff is that the government may not last long.

"These are big decisions for people to take on these positions. They may have to move families and relocate, and leave other careers, maybe other jurisdictions. So what are they signing up for? Two weeks? Two months? Two years? That's a big question."

On the other hand, he said some will see the negatives as an opportunity.

"There may be some people who don't want to sign up for four years, but the idea of signing up for two months might not be a bad idea. It might come at the right time. They can see how it goes. They could take leave from their current places of employment. There may be a bit of an opportunity there."

He said the issue for the NDP will not just be about governing, but recruiting staff who can prepare for the next election campaign and advancing key pieces of the NDP – and Green Party – agenda, given that all decisions made in government will be subject to review in a campaign.

"That may change the calculation of how one staffs up up in ministerial offices," he said.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct