British Columbia

With B.C. government in limbo, defeated cabinet ministers are still cabinet ministers

As communities in the southern Interior prepare for the possibility of flooding, the ministry responsible for emergency preparedness has a caretaker leader.

Ministers responsible for justice, TransLink and others to stay on until new cabinet appointed

While several B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers were not re-elected in the recent provincial election, they remain ministers until a new cabinet is appointed. (The Canadian Press / Darryl Dyck)

B.C.'s provincial election may be over, but after a historic preliminary vote count that left the B.C. Liberals nine votes short of a majority, there are many questions — including how ministries with defeated ministers will operate. 

Four cabinet members went down to defeat this week: Naomi Yamamoto (emergency preparedness) with Amrik Virk (technology, innovation & citizens' services), Suzanne Anton (attorney general and justice) and Peter Fassbender (community, sport, cultural development & minister responsible for TransLink).

That's in addition to Terry Lake (health) and Bill Bennett (energy and mines), who are no longer MLAs after choosing not to seek re-election this year. 

UBC political scientist Gerald Baier says the government is continuing to operate as it was. What isn't likely happening however are daily briefings with ministers and the cabinet.

"There really isn't going to be lot of initiatives nor a lot of political response to crisis as they come," said Baier.

"The cabinet as a whole can give some direction to deputies, I would guess, but it's not coming on a day to day basis."

Government: they "remain ... as caretakers"

That will likely continue until it's known whether Christy Clark and the Liberals will retain their hold on power — either by winning an additional seat in the final count, or the NDP and Green Party not coming to a minority governing agreement. 

Elections BC will make its final count between May 22 to 24, meaning there will be at least a two-week gap.   

"During the time period before final election results are confirmed by Elections BC, the executive council of government continues," wrote Matt Gordon, assistant deputy minister for corporate priorities and communications operations, in a statement.

"Cabinet ministers (including those that did not seek re-election or who were not re-elected) remain in their positions as caretakers until a new executive council is sworn in. Government activity is typically very limited during this time as new policy and legislative work awaits the new executive council. However, on issues such as public and environmental health and emergency management, the public can expect the governments full attention to such matters."

Residents of Holiday Park Resort in Kelowna, B.C. wade through flood waters on May 11, 2017. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Who would speak during an emergency?

One issue that will have the government's attention in the short-term is the possibility of communities in the southern Interior experiencing "unprecedented" flooding. 

Yamamoto is the ministry of state responsible for emergency preparedness in B.C., but a Liberal spokesperson said it would be regional elected MLAs who would be making any public statements on behalf of the government should they be required.

With files from Farrah Merali

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