Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald was given a new role as critic for energy and mines in NDP leader John Horgan’s new shadow cabinet.
“I’d been doing forestry, which I very much enjoyed for five years, but I think it’s time now to learn other things,” said Macdonald in an interview with the Times Review.
Macdonald had been the critic for forests, lands and natural resource operations since 2009.
Horgan, who was acclaimed leader of the NDP in May, announced his shadow cabinet in a news release Wednesday morning. The shadow cabinet is divided into two sectors — one for the economy, and one for stronger communities. Macdonald is part of the economic sector team.
Macdonald’s main focus will be on mining policy. He said that like his work in forestry, he will be focused on holding the government to account on what is happening to the land base. He brought up the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling that granted the Tsilhquot’in First Nation title over its land.
“The Tsqilhquot’in ruling raises lots of questions that the government has to understand and deal intelligently with,” he said. “Our role as the opposition is to push the government to work hard on these issues and to do the work they need to do to solve problems for these people.
“There’s no doubt that anything on the land base requires a sophisticated approach from government and the people on the ground who will do the work.”
Macdonald will also be in charge of working on overall energy policy, said Horgan. He will be working with Adrian Dix, the critic for BC Hydro, Bruce Ralston, the critic for natural gas development, and George Heyman, the critic for green economy and technology.
“When I was sitting down to see how I would parse out the area that I just represented over seven or eight years, it struck me the best course of action based on my experience was to make sure we had people singularly focused on elements of energy policy so they could do a better job of dismantling the mess the Liberals have made of it,” said Horgan, who was the critic for energy & mines prior to becoming party leader.
Macdonald said both natural gas and BC Hydro policy fascinate him. “There’s so much there that has been said that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but the premier seems to be getting away with it for the most part so far, so we’ll see if we can push her on that,” he said.
He said he’s looking forward to working with his colleagues on the portfolio and sharing his expertise with others. “If you’re working with somebody, you both share the excitement of something significant,” he said.
The shift will see Macdonald pitted against Bill Bennett, the MLA for East Kootenay and Minister of Energy & Mines, who he has sparred with many times in the legislature. Macdonald said he is looking forward to going up against his East Kootenay rival. “On one issue after another we’ve battled and I certainly am excited about the prospect to add to that,” he said.
The shadow cabinet will be meeting in Vancouver on Thursday and Friday.