VICTORIA — British Columbia’s new premier handed his cabinet ministers their to-do lists on Monday, and the tasks include a mix of both campaign promises and new plans.
John Horgan, who appointed his 22-member cabinet last week, said his government’s priorities involve relieving families of rising costs and fees, offering better services for people, and providing good jobs and economic opportunities throughout B.C.
“I expect my ministers to work hard every day to deliver on our commitments and make life better for people,” Horgan said in a statement. “It will take time to fix the problems, but we’re committed to getting it done, one step at a time.”
Finance Minister Carole James has been told to implement some of the New Democrats’ major election promises, including eliminating tolls on two Metro Vancouver bridges and getting rid of medical services premiums within four years, starting with a 50 per cent cut next January.
James’ letter also said she must balance next year’s budget and increase the carbon tax by $5 per tonne per year, starting next April.
Energy Minister Michelle Mungall’s mandate includes meeting a campaign pledge to freeze B.C. Hydro rates.
Her letter also said she must refer the Site C dam project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for a review on “the question of economic viability and consequences to British Columbians in the context of the current supply and demand conditions prevailing in the B.C. market.”
The former Liberal government approved the nearly $9-billion hydroelectric generation project in northeast B.C.
Mungall has also been told to make sure liquefied natural gas projects benefit British Columbians and meet the province’s climate commitments.
Environment Minister George Heyman’s mandate letter stated that he has been tasked with enacting an endangered species law and working to defend British Columbia’s interests in the face of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
He must also introduce a new legislated target for reducing carbon pollution, including separate targets and plans for industry.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson’s responsibilities include conducting a provincewide homeless count, while Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser will negotiate new plans with First Nations to share provincial gaming revenues.
Fraser is also tasked with working with First Nations to transform B.C.’s treaty negotiation process to respect case law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Horgan’s letters to other ministers included directions for Attorney General David Eby to re-establish B.C.’s human rights commission and for Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to lead the government’s planning for the safe implementation of legalized cannabis.
The new premier also encouraged some ministers to get on with their duties quickly. Horgan’s letter to Education Minister Rob Flemming said he must fast-track funding to B.C.’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 school system, ensure there is funding available for school supplies and school playgrounds, and that plans for seismic upgrades at B.C. schools are accelerated.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
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