NDP leader John Horgan is surrounded by 40 elected members at they took their oaths of office as MLAs June 7. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

UPDATE: John Horgan to unveil NDP cabinet July 18

Transition happening as quickly as possible, MLA Carole James says

More than nine weeks after B.C.’s closest-ever election result, NDP leader John Horgan is set to officially take over as premier, as he and his new cabinet take their oaths of office July 18.

The NDP announced Thursday that the ceremony will take place at Government House in Victoria.

Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Carole James, spokesperson for the transition team, said the date represents the fastest transition the NDP team can make.

“If you look at what has to happen before you actually appoint cabinet, you have to make sure there are staff in place,” James said. “We just received the binders from the ministries, so those are being gone through right now, which means that each minister will receive their binder with their short-term and long-term decisions that have to be made. That work has to happen before you put ministers in place, so to do that work in a week and a half is fast work.”

Horgan has estimated it will take most of the summer for the new cabinet to prepare for a legislature session starting in early September.

Horgan has made the first of the many staffing selections that await after 16 years of B.C. Liberal government. Former BCIT president Don Wright will take over as deputy minister to the premier and head of the public service effective when the new government is sworn in.

Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs, who co-chaired the NDP election platform committee, has been appointed as Horgan’s chief of staff.

James, who was finance critic in recent years, is spokesperson for the NDP’s government transition team. She said Bob Dewar, a former senior staffer for the Manitoba NDP government who served as campaign manager and then chief of staff, is staying on as special advisor.

Dewar’s appointment is “as permanent as anything can be in this time,” James said, in reference to the NDP-Green Party alliance that provides a single-seat majority against 43 B.C. Liberal MLAs on the opposition side.

Asked if the uncertain duration of the government makes it difficult to recruit staff, James said it hasn’t been a problem so far.

“In fact I’ve been really impressed, and I know our transition team has been as well, with the number of people who’ve come forward, who’ve expressed interest in doing the work,” James said. “I think we have people who see this as a really exciting opportunity to be able to come forward and work in this kind of legislature, to work on the agreement with the Greens, and I think it provides people with a chance to do something in government that is a part of history.”

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