"This is an exciting time for British Columbians, but also for people across the country who are fighting for quality public services, good jobs, labour rights and overall fairness. We look forward to the government's progress and becoming a progressive voice at the national level." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (19 July 2017) — On July 18, the new B.C. NDP cabinet, led by Premier John Horgan, was sworn in at the Legislature, marking the first time in 16 years the province has seen a change in leadership.
Premier Horgan appoints skilled and experienced cabinet
Horgan made several key appointments, balancing his cabinet with old and new MLAs, including choosing George Heyman as the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Heyman is the former President of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU), and National Executive Board member of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUGPE). Heyman served in those capacities from 1999 until 2008 when he accepted the role as executive director of the Sierra Club B.C., a prominent national and grassroots non-profit organization committed to protecting the environment.
"We are so pleased to hear about George's appointment to cabinet," said Larry Brown, NUPGE President. "George has always been a strong advocate for labour and for the environment. He has the ability to work with people and organizations to build solidarity and understanding. Having George at the helm of B.C.'s climate change strategy will be good for workers, communities and the earth."
Brown continued, "George has the experience and will to find solutions without pitting groups against each other. With the environmental challenges facing B.C., George will provide the strong leadership to move issues forward. His progressive voice will be a great addition at the national level as well."
Former labour leaders appointed to cabinet positions
Other significant appointments to cabinet demonstrate that the Premier appreciates the role that labour plays in the province.
Health care is seen as such an important sector that the Premier created a new ministry to ensure all aspects of health are encorporated. The new ministry of Mental Health and Addictions will be led by Judy Darcy, former National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and MLA since 2013. Darcy has a track record in advocating for universal, accessible, affordable public health care. Adrian Dix, long-time MLA will be responsible for the Ministry of Health. Both Darcy and Dix have previously served as health critic while in opposition.
"With B.C. facing such a massive opioid crisis, we need fierce and experienced Ministers to take on this challenge. Adrian and Judy are just that," said Brown.
Harry Bains, who has served as an MLA since 2005, will now serve as the Minister of Labour. Prior to running for office, Bains was a member of the Board of Governors at Kwantlen University College from 1993 to 1999, serving as vice chair for 3 years. He was also an elected officer of Steelworkers-IWA Canada Local 2171 for over 15 years. He served most recently as vice-president of his local, where he led negotiations and engaged in bargaining for better working conditions for working people. In opposition, Bains was the NDP critic for Jobs, Employment, Labour and Worksafe BC in the legislature.
Mabel Elmore has served 3 terms as an MLA for the riding of Vancouver-Kensington. Previously she worked as a transit operator for 10 years, where she became active in her union, the Canadian Auto Workers, Local 111 – and led successful campaigns as a transit advocate. Her new role is as Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction.
Premier Horgan has appointed Melanie Mark to the role of Advanced Education Minister. She is not only the first Indigenous woman to serve in the B.C. legislature but now becomes the first female Indigenous cabinet minister. Mark's portfolio will focus on eliminating interest rates on post-secondary loans, and finding other ways to improve affordability.
Following the swearing in ceremony, the Premier held an Open House for the public. Members of BCGEU/NUPGE were in attendance to celebrate the new govenrment.
In marking the occasion, President Stephanie Smith noted that "We are incredibly excited by what the future will hold for Premier John Horgan, and a new government forged in the spirit of collaboration."
"As they develop legislation, we encourage the new BC NDP government to draw on the expertise of working people in our province, including the BCGEU/NUPGE members. Whether it is fighting wildfires, providing childcare, or responding to fentanyl overdoses, BCGEU/NUPGE members are often on the frontlines of many of the issues they will be turning to right now." said Stephanie Smith, President of BCGEU.
"This is an exciting time for British Columbians, but also for people across the country who are fighting for quality public services, good jobs, labour rights and overall fairness," added Brown. "We look forward to the government's progress and becoming a progressive voice at the national level."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE