Surrey now has three cabinet ministers and North Delta has a parliamentary secretary after NDP Premier John Horgan and his government was sworn in Tuesday.
Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston is minister of jobs, trade and technology; Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains is minister of labour and Jinny Sims, MLA for Surrey-Panorama is minister of citizens’ services.
All three are veteran politicians. Their first cabinet meeting was Wednesday. Bains hit the ground running, though, he admits, “I haven’t even seen my office yet.”
He met with his deputy minister Tuesday night. “Today, right up to 7 o’clock, we’re in cabinet meetings,” he said Wednesday morning. “It is quite humbling I must say. I can’t say enough to say thanks to the community that put me here, and I will try my best not to disappoint them.
“There are some priorities,” B.C.’s new labour minister told the Now-Leader. “I think we have said minimum wage will be raised to $15 over four years so we have to figure that out, how do we do that. We’ll need to do some consultations, and then move on. We need to make sure that the labour and business community feel that they are part of the decision making, that one isn’t seen to be an impediment to economic growth, rather that they both complement each other.
“I think that’s the kind of environment that I would like to see created and the government, as a minister, I think we need to facilitate to develop that kind of environment, so that all parties are pulling in the same direction, we can create jobs that will last and family-supporting jobs, and make sure the environment is such that there’s labour peace and people can work out their differences.”
Bains added that WorkSafeBC needs to be looked at.
“We want to make sure that the workers’ health and safety is going to be front and centre, as far as the preventing of injuries at the workplace, and illnesses.”
Bains also said he wants to make sure injured workers are “provided with care and treated with respect and dignity, and get them the help and support they need so they can get to work, when they’re ready to go to work.”
“There’s many non-union workers out there,” Bains noted, and while most employers “look after their employees really well, but in the event a worker feels the laws are broken, that they’re not being treated the way the law requires their employers to treat them, that they have a fair system for them to go and seek help, and then get justice.”
Bains has held his riding since 2005 and before that served on Kwantlen University’s board of governors, and as vice-president of Steelworkers-IWA Canada local 2171.
In opposition, he was critic for the Olympics, transportation, infrastructure, employment, WorkSafe BC, forests, lands and natural resources.
Sims, the new minister of citizens’ services, told the Now-Leader she planned to meet with her deputy minister and staff Thursday.
“It is exciting times. The whole idea is to make things more accessible for people.”
She said she aims to help people better cut their way through government red tape, freedom of information and privacy issues, “and also some public procurements.
“Lots of us are trying things for the first time,” Sims said.
“But that’s what a cabinet does,” she added.
This is Sims first run as an MLA. She served as NDP MP for Newton-North Delta from 2011 to 2015 and before that was president of the BC Teachers Federation from 2004 to 2007.
Ralston said employment in rural areas had declined and “average real wages have been static” under the Liberals, who were in power for 16 years. The challenge, he said, is to build an economy and jobs “that work for everyone, not just the top one per cent.”
“I’ve got to get up to speed and be briefed on the new ministry,” he said.
Ralston has held his riding since 2005 and before that served as B.C. NDP party president, and a Surrey Civic Electors alderman and councillor from 1988 to 1993.
Meanwhile, Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon, a former Olympian but new to the political arena, is parliamentary secretary for sport and multiculturalism.
Horgan’s first cabinet has 20 ministers as well as two ministers of state and six parliamentary secretaries. It is the first gender-parity cabinet in the province’s history.
“We will put people at the heart of everything we do,” said Horgan, B.C.’s 36th premier.