Vancouver gained big time in the first NDP cabinet to be sworn in about 20 years and South Asians and Surrey appear to have lost big time.
There are only two South Asians in Premier John Horgan’s cabinet, Harry Bains, Minister for Labor, and Jinny Sims, Minister for Citizenship Services. Jagrup Brar, who is the one of the most experienced elected legislators among the current crop of NDP MLAs, was inexplicably left out of any posting. Rookie surrey-Guildford MLA, Gerry Begg, was appointed the party whip. Newcomer Ravi Kahlon (Delta North) was made a parliamentary secretary but is not a Minister and not in cabinet. Raj Chohan has been ignored as well as he is unlikely to be promoted to Speaker’s position but will remain deputy Speaker.
Compare this to the NDP cabinet of former NDP Premier Glen Clark, who, in 1996, had three South Asians in key and powerful ministries.
The Surrey-Delta area gave NDP seven seats this time, sweeping all seats west of Cloverdale and north of White Rock, out of which four were seats wrested from the BC Liberals. Horgan rewarded Surrey Delta area with three cabinet posts (Bains, Sims and Bruce Ralston as Minister for Jobs, Trade and Technology) and one parliamentary secretary (North Delta’s Kahlon).
Compare this to Vancouver where NDP candidates garnered eight of 11 seats, out of which seven NDPers were re-elected and only one was newly elected (George Chow, who defeated Liberal Minister Suzanne Anton).
Horgan rewarded Vancouver with the largest representation in the cabinet, including some of the most important portfolios in government. Every single NDP MLA from Vancouver got an appointment. The Vancouver list of Ministers include David Eby (attorney general, and also minister responsible for liquor, gambling and the Insurance Corp. of B.C.), Adrian Dix (health), Shane Simpson (social development and poverty reduction), George Heyman (environment and climate change strategy), Melanie Mark (advanced education) and George Chow (minister of state for trade). Out of the remaining two NDP MLAs from Vancouver, Mable Elmore, the only member of the Filipino community in the Legislature, was made a parliamentary secretary and Spencer Chandra Herbert will be nominated to the important post of Speaker (according to sources ) with Burnaby’s Raj Chauhan asked to play second fiddle as his deputy (and believe me, Chauhan will not get a chance to sit in the Speaker’s chair as no MLA can afford to miss a Legislative sitting with the Speaker’s vote needed each time to break a tie). Vancouver has another important person in the NDP government – former Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs as Premier Horgan’s chief of staff. Count him as as more influential than most cabinet ministers.
Vancouver gave NDP eight seats but only one was taken from the Liberals in the last election whereas Surrey- Delta gave NDP seven seats, out of which four were seats that belonged to Liberals and were counted as traditional Liberal constituencies. Yet Vancouver gets six important cabinet positions, one important Speaker’s position and one parliamentary secretary. Surrey gets three cabinet positions, out of which only one can really be considered a big Ministry, and one parliamentary secretary. How is that fair, Mr Horgan?
And despite all the campaign talk of how important South Asians are to NDP, only two South Asians in cabinet? How is that a reward for the huge South Asian vote during the election. Is the NDP taking a page out of the BC Liberal playbook by ignoring Surrey and the South Asian community? Leaving out Jagrup Brar was a mistake – and hopefully Premier Horgan will rectify this mistake as soon as possible.
Wouldn’t Jinny Sims, a former teacher and former teachers union president, have done better in the important education portfolio? Wouldn’t Harry Bains, who for years was the transportation critic and knows transportation issues like the back of his hand, have done better in the important post of transportation minister? Some of Horgan’s choices may seem surprising but remember, this is politics and internal NDP politics was at play when each MLA was picked for a Ministry. The true picture of the reasoning behind cabinet selection will only be known when Horgan’s cabinet selection advisors are unmasked.
In the meantime, Surrey residents in general, and, South Asians in particular, have reason to feel as if they are being ignored by the Premier – again.