Forget about a snap election call in the coming year, but keep an eye out for a cabinet shuffle that sounds like it may occur sooner than later.
That much was made clear to me by Premier John Horgan in our annual year-end interview on Global TV. While he admits he cannot control how the three-member Green Party caucus votes on confidence matters in the legislature, any move to force an early election will most certainly not come from his actions.
“I am a minority government. I take every day as a good day and do the best I can,” he told me. “And it also gives my colleagues a sense of confidence that we’re here to do as much as we possibly can do in this mandate. But we don’t know what will happen.”
Horgan acknowledged that a seemingly common event – for example, an MLA coming down with an extended illness or being put out of commission by an accident – could determine whether his party remains in power at any given time.
But in reality the Greens show no appetite whatsoever for taking the NDP down (that position may be revisited in the spring of 2021, as the Greens will need at some point to show they represent a distinctly different choice than the NDP) and for now, it is the BC Liberals who are short one MLA because of illness.
However, when pressed if there could be an election called on his own “initiative,” Horgan’s response was quick and resolute.
“No,” he said flatly.
Still, his plan – for now anyways – to run out the entire mandate (the next election is not required to be held until October, 2021) isn’t stopping him from doing something premiers and prime ministers generally do before such a vote.
That would be asking his cabinet team about their long term career goals. It’s the kind of conversation that generally precedes a cabinet shuffle, which he appears to be planning.
“We need to retool,” he said, which struck me as a frank admission that his government needs a bit of an energy boost.
“We’re at the halfway point. Some members are not going to be running again. So I’m going to have those conversations over the Christmas break and then we’ll probably see some changes in the New Year. And I think that’s appropriate. We’ve had a good run,” he said.
He singled out Finance Minister Carole James and Health Minister Adrian Dix for special praise, which would seem to suggest they won’t be leaving their portfolios in the looming shuffle.
“I bring up Adrian and Carole because they’re former (NDP) leaders,” he said. “I can’t remember a leader that’s had the blessing of having two of his predecessors as his strongest allies.”
Although Horgan insists he has a strong, talented team in cabinet, he also is mindful that some changes are needed.
A review of the existing cabinet membership suggests a significant number of ministers may not seek re-election (I estimate the number to be around six or so).
“It is time to refresh and take a look at what we are going to do for the second half of the mandate and preparing for an election whenever it comes,” he told me.
Not surprisingly, Horgan would not expand further – in fact, I got the distinct impression he rather regretted even raising the subject of a cabinet shuffle in the first place – and so speculation will likely abound about the pending changes.
I’m reluctant to bruise the egos of any sitting cabinet ministers by guessing which of them are the likeliest choices for leaving the cabinet table. It is much more fun to speculate which backbenchers may be in line for a big jump in their pay grades.
My best bets for those getting a promotion to cabinet include several MLAs who represent ridings considered crucial to the NDP’s chances of being re-elected: Bowinn Ma in North Vancouver-Lonsdale, Ravi Kahlon in Delta North, Bob D’Eith in Maple Ridge-Mission and Ronna-Rae Leonard in Courtenay-Comox (and don’t count out veteran MLA Nic Simons from Powell River-Sunshine Coast).
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC. Keith.Baldrey@globalnews.ca.