Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell is taking on the role of Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development following the announcement of the BC NDP’s new cabinet Thursday.
The appointment to the position, working with Katrine Conroy Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, fits with one of Russell’s campaign promises to be a voice for rural B.C.
“It feels pretty wonderful to be honest,” Russell told the Times-Chronicle after being sworn in as MLA for Boundary-Similkameen on Tuesday. “I feel especially humbled and honoured to have been officially granted the position (of MLA).”
Russell said he is excited for what lies ahead, but is admittedly apprehensive about the task of governing through the many challenges that lie ahead.
“COVID is certainly top of mind for everybody, of course, it’s hard to escape that. I think, for me, one of the things that became apparent during the campaign that was more dramatic than I expected was the need to have a strong rural voice. It’s not just articulating rural issues, it’s that rural lens on issues that are the same across the province. Even something like COVID. It has a different manifestation in rural B.C. in a lot of ways than it does in urban B.C,” Russell said.
“Likewise climate action and how we are going to be able to move on some of that is top of mind. And then there is the whole slew of more traditional issues, revisiting and reforming our forest management practises and so on, overdose crisis management and how we actually try to make some positive headway there. It’s a long, long list.”
Entering his first year as an MLA, Russell, like many people, has been missing out on events that would normally take place in person including Tuesday’s swearing in ceremony. While he said it was initially a bit disappointing for Russell, he certainly did the honours in a uniquely 2020 way.
“After kind of accepting it, I realized 2020 has been a bit of a dumpster fire for most of us in some way or another — or in some cases in a lot of different ways. And you know what? It’s been a unique year, and one that I don’t expect we are going to duplicate anytime soon. So the fact that we did a virtual swearing in ceremony is kind of par for the course. Frankly, by the end of it I felt honoured to do my swearing-in wearing my suit and my slippers. I don’t expect that will ever happen again either,” Russell said.
The newly-elected NDP majority is tasking new cabinet members with “continuing the government’s cross-ministry response to the pandemic, providing better health care for people and families, delivering affordability and security in B.C.’s communities, and investing in good jobs and livelihoods in a clean-energy future,” the NDP stated in a press release.
“The pandemic has turned the lives of British Columbians upside down,” Premier Horgan said following cabinet appointments Thursday. “We have come a long way together, but we have much further to go. This skilled, diverse team is ready to continue our fight against COVID-19 and build an economic recovery that includes everyone.”
List of new cabinet and parliamentary secretaries:
Premier: John Horgan
Attorney General (and Minister Responsible For Housing): David Eby
* Parliamentary Secretary – Anti-Racism Initiatives: Rachna Singh
Advanced Education and Skills Training: Anne Kang
* Parliamentary Secretary – Skills Training: Andrew Mercier
Agriculture, Food and Fisheries: Lana Popham
* Parliamentary Secretary – Fisheries and Aquaculture: Fin Donnelly
Citizens’ Services: Lisa Beare
Children and Family Development: Mitzi Dean
* Minister of State for Child Care: Katrina Chen
Education: Jennifer Whiteside
Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (and Minister Responsible for the Consular Corps of British Columbia): Bruce Ralston
Environment and Climate Change Strategy (and Minister Responsible for Translink): George Heyman
* Parliamentary Secretary – Environment: Kelly Greene
Finance: Selina Robinson
* Parliamentary Secretary – Gender Equity: Grace Lore
Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: Katrine Conroy
* Minister of State for Lands, Natural Resource Operations: Nathan Cullen
* Parliamentary Secretary – Rural Development: Roly Russell
Health (and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs): Adrian Dix
* Parliamentary Secretary – Seniors Services and Long Term Care: Mable Elmore
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: Murray Rankin
Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation: Ravi Kahlon
* Minister of State for Trade: George Chow
* Parliamentary Secretary – Technology and Innovation: Brenda Bailey
Labour: Harry Bains
* Parliamentary Secretary – New Economy: Adam Walker
Mental Health and Addictions: Sheila Malcolmson
Municipal Affairs: Josie Osborne
Public Safety and Solicitor General: Mike Farnworth
* Parliamentary Secretary – Emergency Preparedness: Jennifer Rice
Social Development and Poverty Reduction: Nicholas Simons
* Parliamentary Secretary – Community Development and Non-Profits: Niki Sharma
* Parliamentary Secretary – Accessibility: Dan Coulter
Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport: Melanie Mark
* Parliamentary Secretary – Arts and Film: Bob D’Eith
Transportation and Infrastructure: Rob Fleming
* Minister of State for Infrastructure: Bowinn Ma
Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle