Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons, who won a fifth term in the recent provincial election, has been named to Premier John Horgan’s new cabinet.
Simons will serve as Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, a post previously held by Shane Simpson, who chose not to run for reelection in Vancouver-Hastings.
The new cabinet includes 20 ministers and four ministers of state, and will be supported by 13 parliamentary secretaries.
Horgan said the cabinet will focus on keeping people healthy and safe through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has turned the lives of British Columbians upside down,” Horgan said. “We have come a long way together, but we have much further to go. This skilled, diverse team is ready to continue our fight against COVID-19 and build an economic recovery that includes everyone.”
According to the government, the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction focuses on providing British Columbians in need with a system of supports to help them achieve their social and economic potential and is responsible for programs like income assistance and WorkBC.
“I think it’s a very important role and I’m really honoured to have been entrusted with it,” Simons told Coast Reporter. “I don't think any of it is going to be easy, but there are good people that I get to work with and I hope we can improve the quality of life of people that are involved in the ministry.”
Simons said he thinks the most immediate challenges in his new post will be the same as other ministers – trying to ensure their ministry’s programs are helping people “get through the pandemic with as much strength and reserve as we have … and try and ensure that families, people and communities stay resilient.”
Horgan’s mandate letter for Simons says he expects the new minister to build on the poverty reduction plan, develop comprehensive accessibility legislation, work with the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries “to increase food security for people in need,” and help with the work “to make B.C. a global leader in the fight to end period poverty by creating a multi-sectoral Period Poverty Task Force.”
Sunshine Coast Regional District directors, who were following the cabinet swearing in during their Nov. 26 board meeting, voted immediately after hearing the news to write a letter of congratulations to Simons.
Simons said he expects to continue working closely with local governments and constituents.
“I’ve been lucky to have constituency assistants who have enthusiastically taken on issues on behalf of constituents and that’s certainly not going to change,” Simons said. “[On] the broader issues that our communities face, whether it’s transportation or forestry practices and such, I think my role will not really change. I’ll be an advocate for the constituency… [Being a minister] just increases my workload, which isn’t something that I have any problems with.”
The full cabinet announced Thursday:
• Selina Robinson, finance.
• David Eby, attorney general and minister responsible for housing.
• Anne Kang, advanced education and skills training.
• Lana Popham, agriculture, food and fisheries.
• Lisa Beare, citizens’ services.
• Mitzi Dean, children and family development.
• Jennifer Whiteside, education.
• Bruce Ralston, energy, mines and low carbon innovation and minister responsible for the consular corps.
• George Heyman, environment and climate change strategy, and minister responsible for TransLink.
• Katrine Conroy, forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development.
• Adrian Dix, health and minister responsible for francophone affairs.
• Murray Rankin, Indigenous relations and reconciliation.
• Ravi Kahlon, jobs, economic recovery and innovation.
• Harry Bains, labour.
• Sheila Malcolmson, mental health and addictions.
• Josie Osborne, municipal affairs.
• Mike Farnworth, public safety and solicitor general.
• Nicholas Simons, social development and poverty reduction.
• Melanie Mark, tourism, arts, culture and sport.
• Rob Fleming, transportation and infrastructure.
• Katrina Chen, minister of state for child care.
• Bowinn Ma, minister of state for infrastructure.
• Nathan Cullen, minister of state for lands, natural resource operations.
• George Chow, minister of state for trade.