While the reshuffle is relatively small there are a number of important changes that we would bring your attention to.
Minister of Small Business, Red Tape Reduction and Minister Responsible for Liquor Distribution Branch – The Hon. Coralee Oakes
Of particular importance is the creation of a new fully-fledged Ministry dedicated to small business. This Ministry is a welcome recognition of the importance of small business and once again ensures that small business will be placed at the forefront of governments agenda. It is also welcome to see red tape reduction given such prominence.
We are also pleased to see that the Minister will be Coralee Oakes. It is a welcome recognition that responsibility for this file continues to be placed with someone familiar with the chamber movement. We received a call from the Minister this morning where she indicated her excitement over the role and on re-engaging with the chamber and the small business community.
Minister of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for Translink – The Hon. Peter Fassbender
Moving from Education Minister Fassbender now takes responsibility for one of the most critical set of files to the chamber movement. Under the Ministers mandate letter he will be responsible for reforming the Auditor General for Local Government he will also be responsible for developing and presenting options for potential processes under which local governments could either amalgamate or integrate service delivery by June 30, 2016.
In addition the Minister also has responsibility for Translink and developing recommendations to Cabinet on ways to improve transit in Metro Vancouver. Minister Fassbender brings significant experience to this file having served as Mayor of Langley and Chair of the Mayors Council.
Minister of Education – The Hon. Mike Bernier
The only new entrant into cabinet Mike Bernier is the MLA for Peace River South. His promotion to Minister ensures representation for Northern BC.
Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness – The Hon Naomi Yamamoto
Minister Yamamoto moves from small business to emergency preparedness. This is a new position which focuses heavily on earthquake preparedness. In addition we are pleased to see a focus in Minister Yamamoto’s mandate letter on the need to reduce risks for communities threatened by floods.
What do these changes mean for the Chambers policy agenda?
This is a relatively small reshuffle with no Minister leaving cabinet and only one new face around the cabinet table in Mike Bernier. The reshuffle does however represent an elevation in importance for several key areas of focus for the Chamber.
The creation of a new Ministry for Small Business and Red Tape Reduction is a particularly welcome announcement by the government. Not only does a Ministry show a renewed focus and importance of small business but a full Ministry means significant additional resources can be brought to bear on addressing the challenges facing small business.
The other interesting point is the moving of Translink to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. While the appointment of Minister Fassbender is welcome given his knowledge of this file the move away from transportation does raise some concerns.
While one of the key constituents in Translink is the Mayors Council the direction given to Minister Fassbender is to consult and make recommendations on ways to improve transit in the region. The challenge is ensuring whatever recommendations are made are integrated into the provinces wider transportation plans being delivered by the Ministry of Transportation. The splitting of responsibilities for aspects of regional transportation between the ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development is not guaranteed to lead to poorer outcomes but will require close coordination to ensure an integrated approach.
There are a number of issues outlined in the Ministers Mandate letters (copies of which can be found at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/organizational-structure/cabinet/cabinet-ministers) which are directly reflective of BC Chamber policy issues. We will be providing an analysis of the mandate letters and areas of focus early next week.