Transition of B.C. government won't interfere with wildfire-fighting efforts
Both the outgoing Liberals and incoming NDP say there won't be any problems
It's a historic transition in more ways than one.
After 16 years under one party, British Columbia will have a change in government while dealing with one of the biggest emergencies the province has ever seen: tens of thousands of people out of their homes in communities across the Interior because of wildfires.
"It's an unprecedented time. It'll be part of the textbooks for years to come," said Mike Morris, solicitor general and minister for public safety.
Morris, along with Forests Minister John Rustad and Minister Responsible for Emergency Management BC Todd Stone, have been the key B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers with jurisdiction over the wildfires.
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But at 2 p.m. PT on Tuesday, NDP Leader John Horgan will be sworn in as premier.
New Democrat MLA Carole James, spokesperson for the party's transition team, said a major priority for Horgan is to ensure a smooth transfer of power in dealing with the wildfire crisis.
"That was a commitment that John made when the fires first began, to make sure that it was a seamless transition," she said.
"He's been briefed every day, sometimes a few times a day. He's been getting updates on how things are going, he's been talking to the ministers as well, so that'll be a seamless transition."
Morris agreed there was no reason for issues in the changeover.
"My role ... has been to sign whatever letters of authorization or ministerial orders that are necessary under the various statutes. Other than that, the deputy ministers and the directors of my ministry have been looking after everything," he said.
'Not really a moment for triumphalism'
Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said while firefighting efforts on the ground are unlikely to be affected by the high-level transfer of power, Horgan must be careful about optics.
"Tomorrow is not really a moment for triumphalism, celebration or anything like that," Telford said Monday.
"They're obviously going to be ecstatic about forming a government after 16 years in opposition, but they're going to have to contain that enthusiasm and show up ... ready to get down to work, given the situation that's happening in much of the province."
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Outgoing Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the people of B.C. are counting on politicians to work together regardless of their partisan loyalties.
"Together is how we're going to get through this crisis," Stone said.
The absence of NDP politicians in fire-affected areas means the onus will be on the new government make sure information reaches the people affected by the emergency, he added.
"Just as we have been very straightforward and forthcoming with John Horgan and his transition team with all of that information for the last couple weeks, we would hope that he would be as forthcoming in return," Stone said, adding he sees no reason why that collaboration would not continue.
James said an NDP government is committed to keeping all politicians in fire-affected areas, including Liberals, as up to date as possible.
"No question," she said. "This isn't a time for politics. This is a time for community to pull together."
No time for pretending anymore
Green Leader Andrew Weaver said he does not think the transfer of power will impact the wildfire response.
Weaver, whose background is in climate science, said people need to begin taking climate change more seriously and recognize humanity's role in the increase in both the number and intensity of these types of natural disasters.
"It's like a bunch of frogs in a boiling pot," he said. "We're sitting there pretending that the world isn't warming.
"We just move on as business as usual. We cannot continue to do so and I'm just hoping that people will wake up."
With files from The Canadian Press