At the best of times, government transitions are complex, and this is especially true for BC’s new Premier-designate, David Eby. He is taking the reins from wildly popular out-going Premier John Horgan, following a bruising leadership campaign in the middle of the BC Legislature’s fall session, with public pressure mounting for action on many complex issues.
Typically, government transitions are like turning around a big ship in a canal, and what Eby doesn’t have the time for is another Evergreen in the Suez Canal. In the days ahead, he’ll need to launch a small fleet of specialized teams to quickly land on the beaches of housing, health care, climate action and public safety and get to work.
Public expectations for Eby are high, and there will be no honeymoon period. The Opposition parties and Eby’s former leadership foes aren’t going to make it easy for him either. There’s little appetite for the usual newly elected leader mantra of “let’s get briefed and take time to consult before we act.”
If Eby is going to be the “man of action” Premier he has said he wants to be, he needs to get acting – and fast.
What does this look like over the days ahead? It starts with getting his team in place.
Key Staffing Changes
Eby is already moving quickly to put his stamp on staffing in the Premier’s Office, already making some key appointments:
- Matt Smith will be the new Chief of Staff. A veteran of progressive political campaigns but a newcomer to provincial governance, he is taking over for John Horgan’s long-serving chief of staff, Geoff Meggs. The move suggests Eby is looking to bring in outsider points of view and expertise to shake things up and get things moving in his early days.
- The new Deputy Minister to the Premier will be Shannon Salter. In this role, she will lead BC’s public service, replacing Lori Wanamaker, a veteran public servant who imbued the public service with a strong sense of fiscal vigilance. Before taking on this role, Salter served as Deputy Attorney General, a role that Eby personally recruited her for earlier this year. Salter’s arrival suggests a rebalancing that means Eby will take a more activist approach.
- Bringing continuity to the Premier’s Office will be deputy chiefs of staff Don Bain and Amber Hockin. Both will remain in their current roles from John Horgan’s team.
- A transition team is also now in place, led by former Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Carole James and Doug White, a lawyer and former chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation in Nanaimo.
Short Transition Period
Eby will move into the Premier’s Office sooner than most leadership predecessors. H+K’s intelligence suggests it will be two weeks of transition instead of the typical four to six weeks.
Eby will name a refreshed Cabinet, recognizing that letting too much time pass can alter the impact of these critical decisions. Watch for a shuffle in late November or early December, ensuring new ministers have time to prepare for their new roles before MLAs return to Victoria for the Throne Speech and budget in February. This also gives current ministers the opportunity to ride out the remaining days of the current session.
Updated Ministry Mandates
Premier Eby will give new marching orders to the cabinet through new mandate letters, ensuring his priorities and plans are clear to the ministers and respective stakeholders. While these mandates are typically refreshed yearly at budget time, H+K expects new mandate letters to come out when Eby’s new cabinet is sworn in.
A Very Different Kind of Budget
Investment in BC will be the priority for Premier Eby in his first budget in the spring. Watch for big moves across key files identified in his 100-day plan – housing, health care, public safety and climate change. Details across these key priorities and a fiscal plan supporting them can be expected ahead of the budget as well.
It’s one thing to win a leadership contest. It’s another to hold the party’s support, and on that front, Eby has his work cut out for him. Immediately after becoming the leader of the BCNDP, Eby’s first comments were to supporters of his leadership rival, Anjali Appadurai. He shared his belief that they are an essential part of the NDP, and he wants them to remain supporters and members. But it will take more than words to heal the rifts and renew the party. Appadurai’s supporters will expect action from Eby on the climate crisis and a willingness to go beyond the Horgan government’s CleanBC plan to further reduce emissions and build a green economy.
What Does This Mean For You?
For starters, you’ll want to take steps to ensure the continuity of your files during the transition. Political and public service staff move around more during transitions than at any other time, so now is a good time to revisit your key contacts to ensure they are well-briefed and have everything they need for transition documents.
Now is also an excellent time to plan your initial outreach to new ministers and staff. Use the time you have now to identify your key priorities and to draft letters of introduction and congratulations.
Plan for 2023. The end of the year is a good time to review and refresh your public affairs plans. Do your objectives, strategies, and tactics account for the new political players and dynamics? Do your plans need to be revisited to ensure they’re up to date?
As always, our H+K team is here to support you as you look to refresh your advocacy and engagement plans in the face of this significant change to the BC Government.