Cue the cabinet speculation

By Shannon Waters October 29, 2020

The composition of B.C.’s next parliament will not be finalized until sometime next month, but that has not stopped pundits, activists and political insiders from contemplating the makeup of the next NDP cabinet.

Today, Health Minister Adrian Dix will be back in action, joining Dr. Bonnie Henry for the Covid briefing. Whether Dix will remain health minister is far from certain, but Gerry Baier, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia, believes he will “if he wants it.”

“He’s been doing a good job and it’s part of how they got re-elected,” Baier told News1130. “I think one of the trademarks of the John Horgan cabinet of the first term was putting people he’s known for a long time in places that are tough.”

Carole James has left big shoes to fill in the finance ministry and as deputy premier, due to her close relationship with Horgan and her calm, prudent handling of B.C.’s finances.

Baier’s top picks for the most high-profile cabinet post are Selina Robinson, who has handled the housing portfolio for the past three years, and David Eby, best known for tackling the “dumpster fire” at ICBC.

In addition to finance, there are six cabinet positions left vacant by retiring ministers: Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation; Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness; Mental Health and Addictions; Transportation and Infrastructure; and Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

Horgan has described the options for his next cabinet as “an embarrassment of riches” with a plethora of old hands and new faces to choose from.

He frequently hailed the gender balance of his cabinet. With the new NDP caucus likely to be nearly gender-equal, it’s likely the new cabinet will be too, as well as more racially diverse than it predecessor. “He has a caucus ready-made for that,” Baier said.

Up-and-comers Ravi Kahlon and Bowinn Ma both held down parliamentary secretary posts during the NDP’s last term and could provide the party with some front bench diversity.

Three former NDP MPs — Murray Rankin, Nathan Cullen and Fin Donnelly — are also set to take seats in the provincial legislature. Rankin and Cullen have both spent time working as consultants for the province on the conflict between the Wet’suwet’en Nation and the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Rankin seems the most likely pick for a cabinet post with a background in law and a wealth of experience on Indigenous, environmental and security issues. Cullen faced campaign controversies, but his popularity might ensure he is not relegated to the back bench.

There was no significant shuffle of the NDP cabinet since its members were sworn in in July 2017, although former citizens’ services minister Jinny Sims resigned her post in October 2019. She was replaced by Anne Kang, who held the role when the election was called.