Premier John Horgan grappling with who will be in his cabinet

NDP Leader John Horgan pauses for a moment as he addresses the media during an election campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C. Tuesday, September 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. Premier John Horgan has secured his majority government and now he is building his cabinet.

There are a lot of factors that need to be considered as Horgan builds his decision-making team.

The expectation is a cabinet will be announced before the end of November.

The main consideration will be ability. Horgan has only made a change to his cabinet since he was sworn in back in 2017 (replacing Jinny Sims with Anne Kang). But with seven cabinet positions open due to politicians not running again, the premier has the ability to add talent while also not having to remove any current cabinet ministers.

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If Horgan doesn’t want to remove any of his ministers, then he needs to consider how each person fits in their position. This is the time for the premier to move ministers around, including promoting his best and demoting those who have struggled.

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The NDP has made it clear they want to have a gender-balanced cabinet and with more women MLAs in the NDP caucus than men, Horgan has a lot of talent to choose from.

Regional diversity and ethnic diversity are crucial for Horgan as well. He will need to find some ministers from outside Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island where the party only has five MLAs. The caucus has a new representation in the Fraser Valley and should expect to have some cabinet representation from the region.

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Horgan also needs to decide whether he wants to add positions to his cabinet. The current cabinet has 23 people, but with a larger caucus and an intense focus on COVID-19, there could be a few more positions added.

The positions that have been left open are finance, jobs, transportation, social development, mental health and addictions, Indigenous relations and forests, lands and natural resources.

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This is not a list of all cabinet possible cabinet ministers. With the expectation many if not all of the former cabinet ministers will remain, this is a look at some high profile current ministers that could move and some fresh faces that may get the call from Horgan to join the cabinet.

Selina Robinson

When Carole James left, Horgan lost not just his Finance minister but also his Deputy Premier. If anyone in Horgan’s caucus can fill those two roles it is Selina Robinson. Robinson has been serving as the province’s Housing and Municipal Affairs minister and could be in line for one of James’ old jobs, if not both. Robinson could also be well suited in Education, where the province has been criticized for the return to school plan rollout.

Rob Fleming

Fleming has been thrust into the spotlight around the back to school plan. The question is whether he wants to continue in the high-pressure role and whether Horgan wants to keep him there. This could be a good position to try something new while giving Fleming an opportunity to try a new portfolio. The question is whether it’s worth losing the personal relationships Fleming has built with the many stakeholders in the public education system and whether it’s worth changing things up in the midst of a pandemic. The government is folding child care into the minister of Education, which could make current Child Care Minister Katrina Chen a possibility for Education Minister.

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David Eby

A majority government, in the midst of the pandemic, gives Horgan an opportunity to shape government the way he wants. One of the things the premier could be looking at is putting a minister in charge of COVID-19 recovery. The position could merge together responsibilities from numerous ministries in order to provide a unified voice communicating decisions made about the pandemic response. Having served as Attorney General, Eby is one of the government’s strongest and best-known communicators.

Murray Rankin

Moving Eby from Attorney General is also realistic because there is a capable replacement. Rankin is a lawyer and the soon to be MLA from Oak Bay-Gordon Head. Rankin has served as an MP but never in a cabinet. Rankin would fill one of the cabinet positions left vacant when James and Scott Fraser left on Vancouver Island.

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Brenda Bailey

The head of DigiBC was one of the many high profile candidates the NDP recruited to run for the first time in 2020. Bailey has no political experience but has huge experience on boards, with non-profits and in business. This mix of experience makes her a candidate to fill the void of Jobs Minister. But Horgan needs to decide whether a role so crucial in pandemic recovery is well suited for a political newcomer. The soon to be MLA for Vancouver-False Creek represents a key constituency for the NDP.

Pam Alexis

The mayor of Mission was one of the last MLAs to be declared the winner, flipping the seat following the counting of the absentee and mail-in ballots. The soon to be MLA for Abbotsford-Mission is the most experienced of the Fraser Valley MLAs and would fit naturally into the job of Municipal Affairs minister.

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Josie Osborne

The mayor of Tofino is a newcomer to provincial politics but has wide experience in her community as a small business owner, tourism operator and mayor. Osborne would be the perfect fit as the tourism minister. The job is currently held by Lisa Beare who is expected to stay in the cabinet but could be moved.

Nathan Cullen

Cullen has long been seen as a slam dunk for cabinet, but he got attention during the election campaign for the wrong reasons. First for the way he was nominated in his riding of Stikine and second for comments he made about an Indigenous Liberal candidate on a hot microphone. The long time federal MP would fill a void outside of Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island and has the experience and skills to serve in various different portfolios from education to forests to even Indigenous Relations.

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Bowinn Ma

A fiercely independent MLA, Ma is seen as an up and coming star among parts of the NDP. Ma provides gender and ethnic diversity to a cabinet and experience managing transportation and infrastructure files. The question she needs to answer for herself is whether she wants to give up some of her ability to speak her mind at will in order to join the cabinet?

Ravi Kahlon

Kahlon has been one of the NDP’s most active and successful backbenchers and is in line for a promotion. The Delta North MLA has served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and was tasked to lead the expansion and use of mass timber in B.C. buildings. There is no one in the NDP caucus who has as many relationships within the forestry industry and the job is open.

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Jenn Rice

Horgan needs help in cabinet from outside Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island and Rice would provide that. The Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness in the previous government, Rice has been the MLA for North Coast since 2013. With the goal of gender equity and regional representation, Rice makes for a logical choice living in Prince Rupert.

Rachna Singh

Singh has been developing her political skills since first elected in 2017 and is a good candidate to be welcomed to cabinet for the first time. Before being elected as the MLA for Surrey-Timbers, Singh worked as a psychologist and drug and alcohol counsellor. She could fit well at both social development or as mental health and addictions minister.

Nick Simons

Simons was first elected in 2005 and serves the constituency of Powell River-Sunshine Coast. Before politics he worked as a child-protection social worker. He has excelled recently chairing committees since 2017 and has slowly built up a reputation with the NDP caucus. As one of the longest-serving MLAs now, it may be his time for a promotion to the cabinet. He could also be a good fit as social development minister.

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Sheila Malcolmson

Like the other former NDP MPs who left federal politics to run provincial, Malcolmson likes the idea of being a part of the government. She has now served as the MLA for Nanaimo since her by-election win in 2019. She has been serving as the parliamentary secretary for the environment for Horgan.

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