COLUMN: City has clout in cabinet

Three Surrey MLAs named to ministry posts in new BC Liberal cabinet

Surrey is well-represented in the new provincial cabinet, and the voice of this community will be very clearly heard in Victoria.

Three Liberal MLAs have been named to cabinet. Peter Fassbender in Surrey-Fleetwood will be the new education minister, and will be very busy trying to reach a long-term agreement with B.C. teachers. This is clearly a priority of Premier Christy Clark’s. She is a former education minister and has a great deal of interest in establishing labour peace in the school system – something many parents and teachers would back.

Many observers thought Fassbender would be placed in transportation or another portfolio involving Lower Mainland mayors, all of whom he knows well.

His last experience with education as a politician was as a Langley school trustee in the 1970s.

However, he is a hard worker and diligent in tasks that he takes on. It is obvious that the provincial government wants to try very hard to improve labour relations, and ultimately learning conditions, in the school system.

Amrik Virk, new MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, will be the new minister of advanced education. This is a natural for the longtime police officer, who was a member of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University board of governors and has an interest in ensuring that young people get good educations and can take their place in the rapidly changing world.

He too is a hard worker and will certainly be diligent in his new portfolio.

Stephanie Cadieux, who is now MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale, is continuing in her role as minister of children and family development. This has been a challenging ministry for many of the people who have held it, as it involves children who need the most attention from government. The representative for children and youth also highlights deficiencies within the system, which occur far too often.

Cadieux has thus far held her own in this difficult job and certainly has her work cut out for her.

Two Liberal MLAs from Surrey and one from Delta are not in cabinet. All have a great deal of experience at the municipal level, and Gordon Hogg, veteran MLA for Surrey-White Rock, has also sat in cabinet.

Marvin Hunt, MLA for Surrey-Panorama, has a lengthy record of service on Surrey council and school board, and Scott Hamilton, MLA for Delta North, has plenty of experience as a Delta councillor. All three will likely receive regular communications from organizations, businesses and individuals in Surrey and Delta, as this fast-growing area needs plenty of attention from the province.

If the new Liberal government is not doing its job in meeting the needs of people in this region, in areas ranging from transit and transportation to education and health care, there are four very experienced MLAs who will hold the government to account.

Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington has already done so, over the issue of charging seniors in care facilities a wheelchair rental fee. This story has received a great deal of attention and the plan will be a challenge for Terry Lake, the new health minister.

The three NDP MLAs will also do all they can to highlight in adequacies in service. Harry Bains in Surrey-Newton has been a solid transportation critic and there are no shortage of issues on that front in Surrey.

Sue Hammell in Surrey-Green Timbers is a former cabinet minister and longtime MLA who has frequently brought up Surrey issues in the House, and Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston is one of the most knowledgeable MLAs on the opposition benches.

The 10 MLAs from Surrey and Delta will ensure that the issues that are important to people living south of the Fraser are brought up regularly, at the cabinet table, in public disclosure and in the legislature itself.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.