Premier names new education, community ministers

Mini cabinet shuffle gives TransLink oversight to Peter Fassbender, who exits turbulent education ministry after 2014 strike

BC Liberal backbencher Mike Bernier is B.C.’s new Education Minister, while predecessor Peter Fassbender takes over as Community, Sport, and Cultural Development Minister, with responsibility for TransLink as well.

The mini cabinet shuffle announced Thursday by Premier Christy Clark also shifts Coralee Oakes, who previously headed the ministry that deals with municipalities, to Minister of Small Business and Red-Tape Reduction, with responsibility for the Liquor Distribution Branch.

Fassbender headed the province’s negotiations with B.C. teachers during last year’s strike. He held out for a negotiated settlement the province achieved rather than legislating teachers back to work, as had been the pattern in several previous teacher strikes.

The removal of TransLink from Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s portfolio comes in the wake of the defeat by Metro Vancouver voters of a plebiscite on the creation of a 0.5 per cent regional sales tax to fund transit expansion.

Fassbender, a Surrey MLA, has extensive history on the TransLink file as a former Langley City Mayor who once chaired the Metro mayors’ council as it tried to persuade the province to grant a new revenue source.

Stone as minister made statements supportive of the mayors’ plan and the new tax but did not actively campaign for it during the plebiscite required by Clark on any new tax.

Fassbender, along with fellow Surrey MLA Marvin Hunt, was more blunt, at one point speaking out against No campaign critics of TransLink’s record.

“Is it totally mismanaged? I don’t believe that, I never have,” Fassbender told Black Press in March, pointing to audits in recent years. “The previous commissioner looked at it and said it was a well-run organization.”

Metro Vancouver board chair Greg Moore welcomed Fassbender’s new role.

“It think it’s a good move,” the Port Coquitlam mayor said. “He has a deep understanding of the legislation and not only the challenges but also the opportunities of being able to work together to find solutions for TransLink.”

Moore noted Fassbender, when he led the mayors’ council, was “very proud” of the agreement struck in 2010 with then-premier Gordon Campbell to negotiate a new funding source. Mayors saw Clark’s promise of a referendum as a betrayal of that deal.

NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena called the shift in TransLink responsibility a “slapdown” for Stone “because he hasn’t delivered.”

Bernier, a former Dawson Creek mayor with 20 years experience in the natural gas industry, is a first-term MLA for Peace River South.

Clark also shifted Naomi Yamamoto out of the small business ministry, making her Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness, underneath the transportation ministry.

Jordan Sturdy is now parliamentary secretary for energy literacy and the environment under Environment Minister Mary Polak – Bernier’s previous post. He’ll also chair the province’s Climate Leadership Panel.

“We have the opportunity now to build on a record of student achievement with long-term labour peace in place, to strengthen our support for small business, which is the backbone of our economy, to work together with communities to prepare for the future, and to put in place a plan to prevent and manage emergencies or natural disasters so that our province can recover with our future secured,” Clark said in a news release.

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