Editorial: The challenges facing the new cabinet
Premier John Horgan’s mostly fresh-faced gender-balanced cabinet begins it mandate under trial by fire. More than 40,000 British Columbians have been forced from their homes by 152 wildfires burning in B.C.’s interior. One of the incoming government’s first actions was to extend a provincial state of emergency and announce payments, drawn from a $100-million emergency wildfire fund, to evacuees of $600 a household for every 14 days they are unable to return home. The social, environmental and economic costs of this year’s forest fire season will be enormous.
But fire is just one of the many challenges newly-appointed ministers face. After all, there are campaign promises to keep. One of those promises was the creation of a separate Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, carving out responsibility for expanding mental health services and managing the opioid crisis, from the Ministry of Health. Public health staffers have expressed concern that their institutions will be buried in bureaucratic red tape having to deal with two ministries instead of one.
Long-serving government staffers should know from experience that it probably won’t work. In the first term of Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government in 2001, the government had a similar idea and created a Ministry of Health Planning separate from the Ministry of Health. The result was two silos with two ministers, two deputy ministers and two full teams of public servants that inevitably failed to accomplish much of anything before being merged back into one ministry of health within two years.