Retired former NDP leader and finance minister Carole James has agreed to B.C. Premier John Horgan’s request to help him navigate the coming year of economic uncertainty due to COVID-19.
Horgan said his long-time friend and colleague in the B.C. legislature since they were both elected in 2005 can offer her expertise and calm leadership in a part-time capacity, as she deals with a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis that led her to announce her retirement last spring. He expressed hope that James would continue longer into the NDP government’s four-year majority mandate.
“I’m going to pay her the princely sum of a dollar,” Horgan told reporters after his new cabinet was sworn in last week by video conference. “I offered her five bucks for a five-year contract. She said, ‘I’ll take it a dollar at a time.’”
Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson moves from municipal affairs and housing to the finance ministry, inheriting a coronavirus-driven deficit that is closing in on $13 billion for the fiscal year ending in March. Robinson’s first task is to deliver on Horgan’s election promise of pandemic recovery payments of $1,000 per household or $500 per individual to most people in the province, which is expected to add another $1.4 billion to the deficit, then produce another budget for the coming year.
James led borrowing of $5 billion for B.C.’s initial pandemic relief this summer, including $1,000 payments to anyone who qualified for federal emergency aid due to lost income from COVID-19 restrictions. About $1.5 billion of that remains to be paid out to businesses, another immediate priority of the NDP government.