Peter Fassbender is no longer B.C.’s education minister but Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster insists that isn’t a sign of dissatisfaction.
Premier Christy Clark shuffled her cabinet Thursday, shifting Fassbender from education to community development, and naming backbench MLA Mike Bernier to the education portfolio.
When asked if Fassbender was moved because of recent conflicts with teachers, Foster stated, “absolutely not.”
“He’s a hero in our room for the way he handled the B.C. Teachers Federation and the work stoppage,” said Foster.
Beyond community development, Fassbender is now responsible for the Lower Mainland’s TransLink program. As a former Langley mayor, he was heavily involved in TransLink.
Bernier is a former Dawson Creek mayor and a first-term MLA for Peace River South.
“Mike is a good guy, hard working and a diplomat and he will be able to steer that for awhile,” said Foster of the challenging education ministry.
Lisa Laboucane, Vernon Teachers Association president, is not impressed with Bernier’s appointment.
“We always hope to see an education minister that has some knowledge or first-hand experience of our school system but once again, that hasn’t happened,” she said.
“We have to ask, why would Bernier, a LNG expert and advocate, be chosen as the education minister? It’s a confusing move from Christy Clark.”
The B.C. Teachers Federation says it will reach out to Bernier to establish a working relationship on key issues like the curriculum redesign for kindergarten to Grade 12.
“We look forward to meeting Minister Bernier and getting him up to speed on the significant challenges-like underfunding, class composition, and the lack of specialist teachers- that are impacting our schools and students,” said Jim Iker, BCTF president, in a release.
Coralee Oakes has gone from community development to small business and red tape reduction while Naomi Yamamoto is minister of state for emergency preparedness.
“The changes are about making sure British Columbians in every region benefit from our plan to create jobs by growing our strong and diverse economy,” said Clark.
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. He 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.
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.”
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.
– with files from Black Press reporter Jeff Nagel