Premier Horgan today announced minor changes to his Cabinet. Many political observers expected a more extensive shuffle so this may signal a larger refresh of Cabinet later this year. This could mean Premier Horgan does not expect an election in the coming months as that would have required more extensive changes.
Today’s biggest change was a swap in portfolios between Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall and Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston. Minister Mungall also sees a shift in ministry names and responsibilities as she will now be the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness. This is a shift from the ministry’s former name; Jobs, Trade and Technology. This seems to make it clear that government wants to make increased business competitiveness a higher priority. Mungall is also tasked with promoting B.C.’s tech sector, economic growth in communities around the province and engaging with industry associations and major sectors on the government’s approach to quality economic growth.
New Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Bruce Ralston’s key priority will be to implement CleanBC – the government’s plan for climate action. He will also oversee BC Hydro and help continue to manage B.C.’s wealth of clean, renewable electricity to meet future demand. He will continue to serve as lead minister for consular affairs.
Pundits are speculating about what motivated the switch given both are viewed as competent Ministers who have the Premier’s confidence. One explanation may be that Ralston is viewed as a strong manager which may be needed given challenges at BC Hydro and Site C. Mungall is considered to be very good with stakeholders, a skill is needed to help manage relationships with the technology and business community. Additionally, Mungall has a young child at home and the demands on her schedule were getting to be quite extensive. It is believed that today’s move was to provide her with a less demanding portfolio in which to help her manage her demands as a mother with her work demands.
The new face to Cabinet is Burnaby Lake MLA Anne Kang. She was elected in May 2017 and was a three-term Burnaby City Councillor and formerly a music teacher in the Burnaby school system before becoming an MLA. Prior to this role she was the Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors and Multiculturalism. Minister Kang’s two priorities will be to connect more rural, remote and Indigenous communities with high-speed internet and continue to modernize government procurement to allow more local, small and medium-sized companies can do business with government more efficiently.
Minister Kang replaces Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims who stepped down as Minister of Citizens Services last fall following the appointment of a Special Prosecutor arising from an RCMP investigation. The details of the investigation have not been made public.
Premier Horgan had said in December that it was time for a “retool” of Cabinet and he intended to have individual conversations with Ministers over the break to see which ones may not be running again. There are a number of backbenchers who are viewed as strong performers who were not elevated to ministerial positions in today’s shuffle. Some of those MLAs include North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma, Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon, Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson and Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith. All are also in ridings which the British Columbia New Democratic Party won by slim margins so would benefit from the higher profile Cabinet position provides in advance of an election.