B.C. NDP forms government for first time since 2001
Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, July 17, 2017 2:18PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 18, 2017 7:34PM PDT
VICTORIA -- The more than 45,000 people forced by wildfires to flee their homes were top of mind for John Horgan as he was sworn in as premier of British Columbia on Tuesday, becoming the first New Democrat to take on the role in 16 years.
Speaking in Victoria, Horgan said he and the 22 members of his newly appointed cabinet would do whatever it takes to support those residents affected by the dozens of blazes tearing across the province's central and southern Interior.
"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 B.C.'s 35th premier.
"Canadians come together in times like this," he added. "It's heartening to see people across political stripes, people across the country, coming together to help fellow Canadians, British Columbians, get through a difficult time."
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 basketball coach, who was present for the swearing-in ceremony, and others for instilling the values his mother started teaching him and his siblings following his father's death.
"I am only here because of you. I'm only here because of the goodwill of other people," Horgan said as he pledged to work hard to ensure that the province's economy works not just for the few but for everybody.
The New Democrats take office with a one-seat edge over the Liberals after reaching a deal with the three Green members of the legislature elected on May 9. The Liberals won 43 of the 87 seats in the legislature, but the government of former Liberal premier 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 take responsibility for the wildfire crisis as the NDP's new forests minister. He said he would be getting 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."
The NDP has also created a new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, with former health critic Judy Darcy at the helm, as the death toll from opioid overdoses continues to climb in B.C.
"Everyone has been given a significant task to do in the executive council, but none I don't think greater than Judy's," Horgan told reporters following the ceremony, as he emphasized the challenge associated with bringing together different parts of the bureaucracy to create an entirely new ministry.
"It's a big challenge, but we start by making sure it's a priority every day."
Melanie Mark, the first First Nations woman to be appointed to cabinet in B.C., wore a red button blanket and carried an eagle feather as she was sworn in as minister of advanced education, skills and training.
NDP stalwart Carole James received a standing ovation when she was sworn in as deputy premier and minister of finance, while longtime New Democrat Mike Farnworth, who challenged Horgan for leadership of the party, took over as solicitor general and public safety minister.
Six members of the legislative assembly were named as parliamentary secretaries, ranging in areas such as poverty reduction and emergency preparedness.
Green party Leader Andrew Weaver congratulated Horgan and his cabinet as he attended the swearing-in ceremony.
"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."
The full list of NDP cabinet appointees, a mix of new and experienced MLAs, is:
- Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training - Hon. Melanie Mark
- Minister of Agriculture - Hon. Lana Popham
- Attorney General - Hon. David Eby
- Minister of Children and Family Development - Hon. Katrine Conroy
- Minister of State for Child Care - Hon. Katrina Chen
- Minister of Citizens' Services - Hon. Jinny Sims
- Minister of Education - Hon. Rob Fleming
- Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources - Hon. Michelle Mungall
- Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy - Hon. George Heyman
- Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier - Hon. Carole James
- Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development - Hon. Doug Donaldson
- Minister of Health - Hon. Adrian Dix
- Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation - Hon. Scott Fraser
- Minister of Jobs, Trade, and Technology - Hon. Bruce Ralston
- Minister of State for Trade - Hon. George Chow
- Minister of Labour - Hon. Harry Bains
- Minister of Mental Health and Addictions - Hon. Judy Darcy
- Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing - Hon. Selina Robinson
- Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General - Hon. Mike Farnworth
- Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction - Hon. Shane Simpson
- Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture - Hon. Lisa Beare
- Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure - Hon. Claire Trevena
Okay looks like a full house here in Victoria for today's swearing in; people still streaming in pic.twitter.com/tWfqOt9wHp— CTV Bhinder Sajan (@BhinderSajan) July 18, 2017
John Horgan speaks for the first time as premier, addresses wildfire and pledges support to all those impacted— CTV Bhinder Sajan (@BhinderSajan) July 18, 2017