Meet the new BC cabinet

Premier and Executive Council, swearing in ceremony. Photo: Government of BC

Premier John Horgan unveiled his new cabinet on Nov. 26, with a number of MLAs now leading ministries relevant to our sector who have personal work backgrounds in community-based social care.

We’re excited about the creation of a new Parliamentary Secretary position for community development and non-profits, and will be telling you more about that as we learn more. It looks like our sector and the Parliamentary Secretary – the Hon. Niki Sharma – will really be getting to know each other, as she is now going to be the government’s main contact for the non-profit sector, according to her mandate letter.

Premier John Horgan lays out an expectation in the letter that Sharma will “make progress” on these two points:

  • Work to ensure charitable organizations and the non-profit sector are engaged and supported through the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery,
  • Support charitable organizations and the non-profit sector by acting as the advocate and key point of contact within government.

Looking forward to learning more about this! Sharma’s Parliamentary Secretary position resides in the Social Development and Poverty Reduction Ministry, which is also a lead ministry at the Social Services Sector Roundtable that Board Voice sits at. The new minister for SDPR is the Hon. Nicholas Simons.

Scroll on down this list to meet your new cabinet ministers. We’ve nabbed most of the information on each minister from their bios on the BC Legislative Assembly website – a great place to get to know more about our MLAs, including the path that led them into politics and their work backgrounds. Ministry mandate letters are now posted on our site as well.

This list below is only of the ministers most relevant to our sector. You’ll find a complete list of all ministers here.

Find the bios of Opposition critics for the key social ministries here.

Minister of Children and Family Development – Mitzi Dean

Mitzi Dean was elected as MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin in 2017 and 2020. She moved to Victoria in 2005, and prior to that lived in the UK, where she was national development manager for children’s services with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the U.K.’s largest child protection charity.

Mitzi grew up in southeast England and worked in child protection social work and community-based social services across Great Britain for more than 20 years. She also volunteered at a Romanian orphanage and a transition house in the U.K. providing refuge for women experiencing relationship violence.

Mitzi has spent the last 30 years helping the most vulnerable people in our community. As executive director of the Pacific Centre Family Services Association, Mitzi oversaw a team that every year helped 1,600 women, children, families, seniors and men impacted by trauma, violence and mental health challenges. Her leadership helped launch the 15,000 sq. ft. Centre for Wellbeing – part of a development which includes about 100 units of new affordable housing.

Minister of State for Child Care – Katrina Chen

Katrina Chen was elected as the MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed in 2017 and 2020. She was sworn in as the Minister of State for Child Care in July 2017.

Prior to her election as an MLA, Katrina served as a Trustee on the Burnaby Board of Education, and worked in both provincial and federal constituency offices for over 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Simon Fraser University with a major in political science and a minor in history, as well as a certificate in Immigration Laws, Policies and Procedures from the University of British Columbia.

Katrina has also worked as a community organizer with ACORN, emceed for major cultural festivals, and volunteered as an executive member for several local non-profit organizations. Katrina was born and raised in Taiwan, and moved to British Columbia many years ago.

As the mother of a young son, Katrina understands that quality, affordable child care gives children a strong foundation for the future and keeps our economy and communities moving by giving parents the option to return to work, go back to school or pursue other opportunities.

Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction – Nicholas Simons

Nicholas Simons was first elected MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast in 2005, and was re-elected in each of the next four elections. In 2017 he was elected Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth.

Nicholas spent over 15 years working in the areas of health, justice, social services and child welfare. He served as the director of health and social development for the Sechelt Nation from 1997 until his election in 2005.

In his role as director with the Sechelt Nation, he oversaw public health, child welfare, alcohol and drugs, financial assistance, and justice programs. He negotiated funding for innovative preventative health and social services which led to a dramatic reduction in adversarial child welfare intervention, and improvements in health outcomes in all age groups.

Prior to his employment with the band, he worked as a child-protection social worker for the Ministry for Children and Families in Sechelt and North Vancouver. He has worked as researcher and consultant for the federal, Northwest Territories, British Columbia and First Nations governments in areas including law reform, child welfare, legal education and crime prevention.

Nicholas has also taught criminology, in which he has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Ottawa and a master’s from SFU, and has taught child protection to social workers based in First Nations communities. He is active in the arts community as a cello teacher, performer, and session musician. He has played with local, national and international artists and ensembles and has two gold records.

Nicholas has served as the chair of the Social Policy Committee of Caucus, on the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, and the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth.

Minister of Mental Health and Addiction – Sheila Malcolmson

Sheila Malcolmson was elected as MLA for Nanaimo in 2019 and 2020. Prior to her election as an MLA, Sheila was elected four times to the Islands Trust Council, serving six of those years as Chair, where she championed fair ferry service, marine safety and oil spill prevention.

She signed a government-to-government protocol between the Snuneymuxw First Nation and the Islands Trust, establishing a relationship of respect and cooperation in planning, land use management and heritage conservation.

In 2015, Sheila was elected as federal MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith. As an MP, she was a leading advocate for solutions to vessel abandonment, oil spill prevention, and women’s equality.

Prior to entering public life, Sheila worked for Energy Probe, and the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy. She also served as an advisor to the Saskatchewan Electrical Energy Options Panel and Queen’s University Environmental Policy Centre, and was a board member for the Conservation Council of Ontario and the BC Sustainable Energy Association.

Sheila lives on Gabriola Island with her partner Howard, a fisheries biologist and climate change researcher.

Minister of Advanced Education – Anne Kang

Anne Kang was elected as the MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake in 2017. In the last government, Anne was the Minister of Citizens’ Services.

Anne immigrated to British Columbia as a child, and has lived in Burnaby for over 30 years. She has been an active community volunteer since the age of 8.

Anne was a three-term Burnaby city councillor before becoming an MLA, and has been a leader in many organizations that build community and support those who are vulnerable. Anne’s commitment to community was recognized when she was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 for her contribution to Canada.

Anne has a passion for life-long learning. She completed her post-secondary education at the University of BC, receiving a Bachelor of Music, a Bachelor of Education (Elementary), a Diploma in Special Education (Learning Disability), and a Master degree in Special Education (Gifted and Creative Learner).  She has also completed two levels of Montessori certification.

Before being elected MLA of Burnaby-Deer Lake, Anne was a music teacher in the Burnaby school system. Anne lives and works in Burnaby and has two school-age children.

Minister of Health – Adrian Dix

Adrian Dix was first elected as MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway in 2005 and re-elected in each of the next four elections. Since being elected MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway in 2005, Adrian has represented his constituents and their concerns, advocating for children in care, seniors, treatment of workers and public health research.

Adrian served as Leader of the Official Opposition from 2011 to 2014. During this time, he proposed a B.C.-wide colorectal cancer screening program, insulin pump coverage for young adults and lower generic drug prices, all of which became provincial policy.

Prior to becoming an MLA, Adrian was the Executive Director for the B.C.-Yukon Branch of Canadian Parents for French, a non-profit organization promoting language education. From 2001 to 2005, Adrian was a political commentator and journalist, writing a column for the Victoria Times Colonist and the Source, a multicultural newspaper in Vancouver. From 1996 to 1999, he was the Chief of Staff to former B.C. Premier Glen Clark.

Adrian was raised in Vancouver and is a UBC graduate. He is married to award-winning poet and writer Renée Saklikar.

Minister of Finance – Selina Robinson

Selina Robinson was elected as the MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville in 2013 and re-elected in 2017 and 2020. In the years before the NDP came to power, Selina served as the Official Opposition spokesperson for mental health and addictions, seniors, local government and sports.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Montreal before relocating to Richmond with her family, Selina has been actively engaged in the Coquitlam community since moving there more than 20 years ago.

As a former city councillor, Selina fought to protect the health of children and families by introducing a local ban on cosmetic pesticides, and worked to improve access for people with disabilities as chair of the Coquitlam Universal Access-Ability Advisory Committee. Prior to being elected, Selina had a home-based family therapy practice, was the Director of Development for SHARE Family and Community Services, and was a Counselling Instructor and Program Developer at the University of British Columbia’s Life and Learning Centre and Vancouver Community College.

Selina lives with her husband Dan in the Ranch Park neighbourhood of Coquitlam-Maillardville, where they raised their now adult children, Aaron and Leya.

As a cancer survivor, Selina does the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer alongside her husband and they have raised more than $500,000 with team Way Hey! Hey! over the past 8 years. When she is not working or training for the ride, Selina can be found in her garden or in a kayak.

Education Minister – Jennifer Whiteside

Jennifer Whiteside was elected MLA for New Westminster in 2020.

As the chief spokesperson and lead negotiator for the Hospital Employees’ Union, she has fought for better public healthcare and the rights of healthcare workers and has dedicated her career to advocating for working people. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked tirelessly to protect seniors and workers in nursing homes across the province.

While leading B.C.’s first campaign for a living wage, she fought to ensure that work lifts people out of poverty and allows them to support their families and fully participate in their communities.

Jennifer has worked for community organizations and labour unions at the provincial and national level, and in those roles has championed a wide range of social justice issues from accessible post-secondary education and affordable public childcare, to Medicare and health equity.

Jennifer was born and raised in New Westminster, holds a degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is passionate about making life better for people in her city and across B.C.

Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation – Murray Rankin

Murray Rankin was elected the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head in 2020. He is a lawyer with expertise in environmental, Indigenous, and public law. He holds law degrees from the University of Toronto and Harvard Law School.

He was elected as the Member of Parliament for Victoria and served from 2012 until 2019. During this period, he was appointed Justice and Attorney General critic, Health critic and also served as NDP House Leader. In 2018, he was nominated by his colleagues from all parties as a finalist for Maclean’s Magazine “Hardest Working Parliamentarian.”

From 2019 to 2020 he was the Chair of Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, overseeing all national security and intelligence activities carried out by the Government of Canada.

Previously Murray was a University of Victoria professor of law, and taught environmental and administrative law. During this period, he helped develop groups such as the West Coast Environmental Law Association and the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre. More recently, he served as community co-chair of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria, a student-run legal clinic doing public interest work in environmental law.

Throughout his career he has been a dedicated advocate for climate action, accessible health care and child-care and has worked extensively to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Murray lives in Oak Bay with his spouse, Linda Hannah, and they have two adult sons, Ben and Mark.

Attorney General, with portfolio for housing – David Eby

David Eby is the MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, first elected in 2013. A proud local resident, David was re-elected in 2017 to serve a second term in the B.C. Legislature and in July 2017 was appointed to his current role as Attorney General by Premier John Horgan. David is responsible for gambling policy, liquor policy and the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) for the province, and in this most recent cabinet, now has responsibility for housing as well.

Before his move into politics, David was the Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, an adjunct professor of law at the University of British Columbia, president of the HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and served on the Vancouver Foundation’s Health and Social Development Committee.

An award-winning human rights lawyer, he has been repeatedly recognized in local media as one of British Columbia’s most effective advocates and has appeared at all levels of court in BC.

His years of legal advocacy at Pivot Legal Society to protect the human rights and dignity of homeless and under-housed residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside were recognized in 2011 by the UN Association in Canada and the B.C. Human Rights Coalition with their annual award.

Minister of Citizens Services – Lisa Beare

Lisa Beare was elected as the MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows in May 2017 and again in 2020. In the previous government, she was Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. (Board Voice note: This is the ministry where provincial procurement policies reside, making this minister important to our sector!)

Lisa grew up in Maple Ridge and has been raising a young family in the community. She previously worked as a flight attendant.

Lisa demonstrated her commitment to good governance early on, with a diploma in local government management from the University of Victoria. Long a passionate advocate for social causes and a committed volunteer, Lisa got her start in politics in 2014 when she was elected as a member of the local school board. Her time on the school board and her own experiences as a mother led her to become an advocate for quality public education for all British Columbians.

Parliamentary Secretary, Community Development and Non-Profits – Niki Sharma

Niki Sharma was elected MLA for Vancouver – Hastings in 2020.

She is a lawyer whose practice focused on representing Indigenous people, including residential school survivors. Niki has worked throughout B.C. as an advocate on climate policy and reconciliation. She has also been recognized for her work on combatting racism.

Niki was elected to the board of Vancity Credit Union, where she served as vice-chair and chaired the Climate Justice Working Group. She also served as chair of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

In 2017, Niki worked as a Senior Ministerial Assistant helping to deliver more childcare spaces for B.C. families. Raised in Sparwood, Niki is a mother of two and has lived in East Vancouver for over 15 years and has deep connections in the community.

Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors’ Services and Long-Term Care – Mable Elmore

Mable Elmore was first elected MLA for Vancouver-Kensington in 2009 when she made history by becoming the first MLA of Filipino heritage. She previously served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Poverty Reduction.

Mable is passionate about building community engagement and connecting people around issues that matter to them. She is dedicated to doing whatever she can to make the lives of people in her community – and across B.C. – better.

Mable has been an active member in the peace movement and has worked tirelessly on a wide range of immigrant, social justice, and workers’ rights issues. Before she was elected as an MLA, Mable worked as a transit operator for 10 years. Over that time, she played an active role within her union – Canadian Auto Workers Local 111 – and led successful campaigns as a transit advocate.

Mable attended the University of British Columbia and has resided in Vancouver for the past 20 years.

Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives – Rachna Singh

Rachna Singh was first elected as MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers in May 2017. She was the convener of the Special Committee to Appoint a Police Complaint Commissioner and the Special Committee to Appoint a Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

Rachna moved from India to Canada in 2001 and chose Surrey to build a better life for her young family. She has worked as a drug and alcohol counsellor, a support worker for women facing domestic violence, and a community activist. She has also worked to improve worker’s rights as a representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Rachna and her husband have two children.

Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity – Grace Lore

Grace Lore was elected as the MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill in 2020. She has been a dedicated anti-violence advocate, university instructor and community organizer.

Before the election, she sat on the Fernwood, North Park, and Quadra Village Neighbourhood Planning Group. She was on the national advisory panel for the Canadian Women’s Foundation and an Affordable Fernwood organizer. She has worked closely with the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre and other anti-violence organizations to support inclusive, accessible, and survivor-centred sexual assault response.

At the University of Victoria, she taught Canadian politics, gender and politics, and research methods. Her research has focused on social media harassment and online violence. Grace resides in Victoria with her partner and two young children.