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 of the policy initiatives which have been highlighted since it was sworn in on Tuesday, July 18 are issues which 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 did not see re-election in Delta South. Voters also defeated two BC Liberal cabinet ministers who sought re-election in Surrey, Peter Fassbender and Amrik Virk.
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 in the House of Commons in Ottawa as MP for Newton-North Delta and is a former president of the B.C. Teachers Federation.
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 in that riding during the campaign and spoke glowingly about Kahlon, it was somewhat surprising he was not named to cabinet. However, he is likely considered to be a key bench-warmer, ready to take a place on the cabinet team if needed.
Another first-time MLA, Garry Begg of Surrey-Guildford, will serve as the whip for the NDP caucus. This is a very important job, given that the NDP (with support from the Greens) have a one-seat majority in the legislature. Every vote will be crucial. Begg, a former Surrey RCMP inspector, certainly is used to having authority and will be very 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 yet. Given that he was one of just three NDP MLAs who had the very lonely job of opposing the Gordon Campbell government and its 76 MLAs in 2004-05, that is somewhat surprising.
New Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh also has no other position with the 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 meet with federal ministers and will be asking for infrastructure money to replace the 80-year-old bridge. This is of crucial importance to Surrey and Delta residents.
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 any significant delay in implementing it will lead to a sense of anger.
New Education Minister Rob Fleming has also promised to quickly deal with school overcrowding, which is a more important issue in Surrey than anywhere else in the province.
The delay in the new government taking office – more than two months after the election – has led to delays in a number of issues, such as planning for the new school year and getting infrastructure funds from Ottawa in place. The new government has its work cut out for it, and ministers will be very busy for the rest of the summer – and long after that.
Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for Black Press, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca.