COLUMN: New leaders indebted to this region’s voters

Government appointments, initiatives partially acknowledge impact on election

The South Fraser area played a key role in helping the BC NDP gain power in the provincial election.

The appointments the new government has made thus far are only partial acknowledgement of that fact.

However, several policy initiatives highlighted since it was sworn in last week are issues that are very important to people in this area.

Prior to the May 9 election, there were six BC Liberal MLAs from Surrey and Delta, three NDP MLAs and one independent. Voters boosted the NDP’s numbers to seven, and the BC Liberals were reduced to four. Independent Vicki Huntington (Delta South) did not see re-election. Voters also defeated two BC Liberal cabinet ministers, Peter Fassbender and Amrik Virk, who sought re-election in Surrey.

Three Surrey MLAs have been named to cabinet. Bruce Ralston is the new minister of jobs, trade and technology; Harry Bains is the new minister of labour; and rookie MLA Jinny Sims is the minister of citizens’ services.

Ralston and Bains have been MLAs since 2005 and Ralston is a former Surrey councillor. Sims served one term as MP for Newton-North Delta.

Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon is also a first-time MLA. He has been named parliamentary secretary for sport and multiculturalism. Given that Premier John Horgan spent a lot of time campaigning in that riding and spoke glowingly about Kahlon, it was somewhat surprising he was not named to cabinet.

Another first-time MLA, Garry Begg of Surrey-Guildford, will serve as the whip for the NDP caucus. This is an important job, given that the NDP (with support from the Greens) have a one-seat majority. Every vote will be crucial. Begg, a former Surrey RCMP inspector, certainly is used to having authority and will be good at using it.

Veteran NDP MLA Jagrup Brar, who regained the Surrey-Fleetwood seat, has not been given any position in the new government. Given that he was one of just three NDP MLAs who had the job of opposing the Gordon Campbell government in 2004-05, that is somewhat surprising.

New Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh also has no other position with government at this time.

However, it is good to hear that Horgan is making replacement of the Pattullo Bridge a top item. He is in Ottawa this week to ask for infrastructure money for the project.

Horgan is also promising to move quickly to remove bridge tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges. This was a key promise that resonated with voters in Surrey, and significant delay will lead to anger.

New Education Minister Rob Fleming has also promised to quickly deal with school overcrowding, a more important issue in Surrey than anywhere else in B.C.

The delay in taking office – more than two months after the election – has led to delays in a number of issues. The government has its work cut out for it, and ministers will be busy for the rest of the summer, and long after that.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca

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