Premier John Horgan made a big change and replaced Rob Fleming as British Columbia’s education minister during the swearing-in of his new cabinet on Thursday.
Jennifer Whiteside, the newly elected MLA in New Westminster, has been appointed to the red-hot file in his place.
Whiteside, the former business manager for the Hospital Employees’ Union, will be walking into a contentious relationship with the BC Teachers’ Federation around teacher safety at schools in the midst of COVID-19.
Whiteside will also be dealing with questions around whether schools should be closed under a surge in cases in the second wave.
Fleming has been moved to head up transportation, and will be supported by Bowinn Ma, the MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale and the new Minister of State for Infrastructure.
Selina Robinson was appointed finance minister, taking over from Carole James who retired after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Formerly in charge of housing and municipal affairs, the Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA will be responsible for tabling what’s expected to be one of the toughest government budgets in B.C.’s history next year.
In September, the province said it anticipated the deficit will hit $12.8 billion, and could still balloon due to stimulus spending and other financial losses under the pandemic.
Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon joined cabinet for the first time in one of the most crucial roles.
His official title is the Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, but his primary responsibility will be to communicate the province’s pandemic recovery plan.
Adrian Dix remains in charge of the health ministry and will continue to lead B.C.’s public-health response alongside provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“The pandemic has turned the lives of British Columbians upside down,” Horgan said. “We have come a long way together, but we have much further to go. This skilled, diverse team is ready to continue our fight against COVID-19 and build an economic recovery that includes everyone.”
Following the full cabinet’s swearing in, Horgan will follow the largely virtual swearing-in with his first media availability since B.C. brought in extensive new measures a week ago to combat the second wave of COVID-19, including a requirement that masks be worn in all indoor, public places.
The cabinet is gender balanced, with 12 women and 12 men, and features some new faces from Vancouver Island: Sheila Malcolmson joins as Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and former Tofino mayor Josie Osborne is the new Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Mike Farnworth continues to lead public safety, and is now also responsible for ICBC. The Crown corporation was formerly under the realm of David Eby, who remains attorney general and takes over housing.
List of cabinet ministers:
Premier: John Horgan
Attorney General (and Minister Responsible For Housing): David Eby
Advanced Education and Skills Training: Anne Kang
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries: Lana Popham
Citizens’ Services: Lisa Beare
Children and Family Development: Mitzi Dean
Minister of State for Child Care: Katrina Chen
Education: Jennifer Whiteside
Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation: Bruce Ralston
Environment and Climate Change Strategy (and Minister Responsible for Translink): George Heyman
Finance: Selina Robinson
Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: Katrine Conroy
Minister of State for Lands, Natural Resource Operations: Nathan Cullen
Health (and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs): Adrian Dix
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: Murray Rankin
Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation: Ravi Kahlon
Minister of State for Trade: George Chow
Labour: Harry Bains
Mental Health and Addictions: Sheila Malcolmson
Municipal Affairs: Josie Osborne
Public Safety and Solicitor General: Mike Farnworth
Social Development and Poverty Reduction: Nicholas Simons
Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport: Melanie Mark
Transportation and Infrastructure: Rob Fleming
Minister of State for Infrastructure: Bowinn Ma