Saanich MLAs’ roles expanded

Lana Popham adds small business to her portfolio while Rob Fleming will also deal with advanced education

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming and Saanich South MLA Lana Popham have additional duties for the legislature session that begins Feb. 14.

Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming and Saanich South MLA Lana Popham have additional duties for the legislature session that begins Feb. 14.

Two Members of the Legislative Assembly representing Saanich received promotions in the provincial shadow cabinet.

Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South, and Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake, find themselves with expanded roles after New Democratic leader John Horgan shuffled his lineup of critics in anticipation of the upcoming legislative session and election campaign.

While Popham adds responsibility for small business to her current role as critic for agriculture and food, Fleming expands his role as education critic to include university and colleges, replacing returning Burnaby MLA Kathy Corrigan.

Fleming said in an interview that he is very happy to represent the advanced education sector in addition to the K-12 education sector. “They obviously go hand-in-hand,” he said, adding that both are essential to the future prosperity of the province.

Fleming said John Horgan wants to be the “Education Premier” who will restore resources and leverage existing educational institutions for the benefit of British Columbia.

From the outside, Fleming’s promotion can be read as a sign of his rising political stock that might also preview a prominent cabinet post, should the New Democrats win government in May.

Fleming said he was “honoured” that Horgan had asked him to help drive change in the provincial education system, but stressed that he would serve in whichever capacity he was asked to serve.

Popham, citing her previous professional experience working in small business, said her new duties as small business critic excite her.

“I’ve already got a track record of fighting for small business people,” she said. “For example, I successfully pushed the B.C. Liberal government to not force … small businesses into the [multi-material] B.C. recycling regime.”

Popham promised that she will listen to local business people to learn how government can help them succeed. “The goal is a vibrant economy with good jobs for British Columbians,” she said.

Friday’s shadow cabinet shuffle also impacted three other New Democrat MLAs. North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice added northern economic development to her northern and rural health critic area. Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson takes on mental health and addictions, while rookie MLA Jodie Wickens will promote the party’s $10-a-day child care plan.

The B.C. legislature resumes sitting Feb. 14, when Premier Christy Clark will set out the government’s agenda for the year in a speech from the throne. MLAs will debate a budget set to be revealed Feb. 21, before the legislature adjourns for the start of the election campaign.