Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster granted expanded duties in Victoria

Premier Christy Clark has appointed Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster as government whip..

Eric Foster has added to his official duties.

Premier Christy Clark has appointed the Vernon-Monashee MLA as government whip, meaning he will be responsible for discipline among the Liberal caucus. That includes making sure his colleagues are present for votes in the Legislature.

“It’s nice to know that the leadership has confidence in the job I can do,” said Foster, who was deputy whip.

“I will be involved in all caucus decisions. I will be more involved in the decision-making.”

Foster’s appointment came as part of a cabinet shuffle Wednesday.

“I am pleased to see the representation from the Okanagan,” he said.

Steve Thomson, from Kelowna-Mission, remains as forests minister, while Westside-Kelowna’s Ben Stewart takes on the citizens’ services portfolio.

Norm Letnick, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA, has been named the new agriculture minister.

“He’s a very capable guy and he’s been heavily involved with the local tree fruits,” said Foster of Letnick.

Michael de Jong switches from health to finance.

Taking over health is Margaret MacDiarmid, and Foster expects to meet with her soon about the development of the two top floors at Vernon Jubilee Hospital into acute care beds.

“I want to remind her where we are at with the process,” he said.

Another issue that will be on MacDiarmid’s plate is meat processing regulations and the impact on North Okanagan farmers.

Clark shuffled her cabinet  Thursday after a number of previous cabinet ministers, including Shuswap’s George Abbott, decided not to seek re-election in May.

“I think we have to be close to the end,” said Foster of any other possible retirements.

And he is confident that the new cabinet will lead the Liberals to success in the next provincial election.

“It’s a fresh face. It’s a good group of people,” he said.

At least one local New Democrat is disappointed that Foster was not named to the provincial cabinet.

“He has been an excellent MLA, working to resolve farm-gate sale of produce for small farms as well the soon-to-be announced expansion of Vernon Jubilee Hospital,” said Nick Hodge, Okanagan-Shuswap NDP president.

“Even though he is a first-term MLA, I thought he deserved the opportunity.”