New Westminster just got a voice at the cabinet table - and it's a major voice.
Jennifer Whiteside, the rookie NDP MLA just elected in October following the retirement of former New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy, has been sworn in as the minister of education in Premier John Horgan's new cabinet.
She replaces outgoing minister Rob Fleming at a hot-button time for the education portfolio, with COVID-19 numbers surging and calls growing for further action in schools.
Fleming remains in cabinet but has moved to the transportation and infrastructure portfolio.
At a media availability after the swearing-in ceremony, Horgan said the change at the top of the education ministry shouldn't be construed as criticism of Fleming's handling of the portfolio. On the contrary, he said, he was proud of the work Fleming had done.
"I think Rob Fleming did an outstanding job under very, very difficult circumstances. Education is a challenge because of the diversity of stakeholders that, at their core, come together to care for children and give them a quality education. This is not simple, and it’s certainly not simple in the midst of a global pandemic.”
Horgan said Whiteside, who previously served as secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union, has the experience to head up the key ministry.
“I’m very excited about what Jennifer Whiteside’s going to bring to the table with her understanding coming from the health sector, operating a large organization with diverse stakeholders, which is very much like our K-to-12 system,” he said. “We want to focus on kids and outcomes for children. We want to make sure that the environment, the work environment and the educational environment, is as robust as it can be, and Jennifer’s up to that task.”
Among other major cabinet posts, Adrian Dix remains minister of health. Selina Robinson, MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, takes on the finance portfolio, while David Eby (MLA, Vancouver-Point Grey) remains attorney general and adds housing to his responsibilities. (See a full list of cabinet portfolios below.)
The swearing-in took place largely virtually, with Horgan and Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin on hand in Victoria, while most MLAs took their oaths of office from their own homes.
The cabinet includes 20 ministers and four ministers of state, with gender representation balanced 12-12. The cabinet will be supported by 13 parliamentary secretaries.
Newly named school board chair Gurveen Dhaliwal tweeted out her congratulations to Whiteside, as did other members of the New Westminster school board:
The B.C. Teachers' Federation, which has been lobbying hard for more action to keep schools safe, has also chimed in:
Congratulations Jennifer Whiteside and welcome to #bced as the new Minister of Education. Minister Whiteside is the new MLA for New Westminster. Before becoming an MLA, @JM_Whiteside served as the secretary-business manager and chief spokesperson of the Hospital Employees’ Union— BCTF (@bctf) November 26, 2020
The full list of cabinet ministers is as follows:
Attorney General (and Minister Responsible For Housing): David Eby
- Parliamentary Secretary - Anti-Racism Initiatives: Rachna Singh
Advanced Education and Skills Training: Anne Kang
- Parliamentary Secretary - Skills Training: Andrew Mercier
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries: Lana Popham
- Parliamentary Secretary - Fisheries and Aquaculture: Fin Donnelly
Citizens’ Services: Lisa Beare
Children and Family Development: Mitzi Dean
- Minister of State for Child Care: Katrina Chen
Education: Jennifer Whiteside
Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (and Minister Responsible for the Consular Corps of British Columbia): Bruce Ralston
Environment and Climate Change Strategy (and Minister Responsible for Translink): George Heyman
- Parliamentary Secretary - Environment: Kelly Greene
Finance: Selina Robinson
- Parliamentary Secretary - Gender Equity: Grace Lore
Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: Katrine Conroy
- Minister of State for Lands, Natural Resource Operations: Nathan Cullen
- Parliamentary Secretary - Rural Development: Roly Russell
Health (and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs): Adrian Dix
- Parliamentary Secretary - Seniors Services and Long Term Care: Mable Elmore
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: Murray Rankin
Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation: Ravi Kahlon
- Minister of State for Trade: George Chow
- Parliamentary Secretary - Technology and Innovation: Brenda Bailey
Labour: Harry Bains
- Parliamentary Secretary - New Economy: Adam Walker
Mental Health and Addictions: Sheila Malcolmson
Municipal Affairs: Josie Osborne
Public Safety and Solicitor General: Mike Farnworth
- Parliamentary Secretary - Emergency Preparedness: Jennifer Rice
Social Development and Poverty Reduction: Nicholas Simons
- Parliamentary Secretary - Community Development and Non-Profits: Niki Sharma
- Parliamentary Secretary - Accessibility: Dan Coulter
Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport: Melanie Mark
- Parliamentary Secretary - Arts and Film: Bob D'Eith
Transportation and Infrastructure: Rob Fleming
- Minister of State for Infrastructure: Bowinn Ma