British Columbia

With many new MLAs and 7 departed ministers, John Horgan faces tough choices in forming next cabinet

From ex-MPs to rookie MLAs in the suburbs, here are some of the people that could be added to cabinet.

Ex-MPs will likely expect a position, while premier may have to address diversity in his inner circle

Premier John Horgan is photographed with his provincial cabinet after being sworn-in as premier in 2017. There was no large cabinet shuffle during Horgan's first term in power, which is rare in Canadian politics.  (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

On the scale of problems to have, choosing who will be in your cabinet for another term of government is certainly one of the nicest. 

"An embarrassment of riches," is how B.C. Premier John Horgan described it on Sunday, when asked how he would choose the people to help him run the government over the next four years. 

No ministers were defeated in Saturday's election, and in Horgan's first term there was not a single large cabinet shuffle, which is rare in Canadian politics. 

Yet the decisions Horgan has to make around who makes cabinet are considerable. Seven ministers decided not to seek re-election, six of them making the decision in the weeks prior to the snap election being called.

The seventh departed cabinet minister is the biggest name of the lot — Finance Minister Carole James, who announced earlier in 2020 she would be stepping down due to Parkinson's disease.

Here are some of the choices and people Horgan will be talking about in the days ahead.

The ex-MPs

If no seats change hands after mail-in ballots are counted, the NDP will have 21 new MLAs. But three of them aren't exactly new faces.

Former MPs Nathan Cullen, Murray Rankin and Fin Donnelly all were successful in making the leap to provincial politics, and all will have high hopes of being included in cabinet. 

Rankin is most likely to make it. Previously the MP for Victoria, he's well regarded by all parties and has a deep background in environmental, Indigenous and security issues. 

Cullen faced controversy in his nomination in Stikine and was forced to apologize for a remark he made about a Liberal candidate during the campaign, but is well regarded by party leaders.

And with the NDP only holding five of B.C.'s 24 seats outside of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, he will help ensure a more geographically balanced cabinet. 

NDP MLA Nathan Cullen formerly served as MP for the northwestern region of B.C. for 15 years. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Lower Mainland surplus

The NDP made its biggest inroads in suburban municipalities in the Lower Mainland they've rarely been competitive in, picking up three new seats in Richmond, two in Chilliwack and two in Langley. 

"I'm very excited about some of the young faces that are going to bring new perspectives, and new parts of British Columbia that will be at our table — some for the first time in decades," said Horgan. 

In Richmond, human rights lawyer Aman Singh and city councillor Kelly Greene are possibilities. In the Fraser Valley, the NDP elected two school board chairs, in Langley's Megan Dykeman and Chilliwack's Dan Coulter. 

And in Vancouver, former park board chair and VanCity Credit Union director Niki Sharma is a potential addition, while current parliamentary secretaries Bowinn Ma, Ravi Kahlon and Mable Elmore will also be hoping for promotions. 

Outside of the 604 area code, Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne and regional director Roly Russell were elected for the first time and would bring more regional diversity to Horgan's team. 

That means unless the size of cabinet dramatically expands from its current 23, some people will likely be left out of the shuffle. 

Women in the inner circle?

There's not just the question of who makes cabinet, but also where they're positioned. 

In his first term, Horgan's top cabinet ministers were arguably Finance Minister Carole James, House Leader and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Attorney General David Eby. 

James's departure means Horgan will have to find a new finance minister. But he'll also have to decide whether he wants his most prominent ministers to be all white and all male. 

Whether that means a promotion for someone like Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson or Labour Minister Harry Bains, or parliamentary secretaries Ma or Kahlon, remains to be seen.   

The only thing clear at this point is Horgan's second-term cabinet won't be like his first one. 

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