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New NDP shadow cabinet sees Eby promoted to housing file

More than two-and-a-half months after becoming NDP leader by acclamation, John Horgan put his stamp on the Opposition caucus July 23.

The biggest change, but hardly the biggest surprise, is that Jenny Kwan, the longtime NDP housing critic until mid-March, remains with the single role of Community Living B.C. critic.*

When damning audits about misspending by PHS Community Services Society were released March 20, it was revealed that Kwan had traveled with estranged husband and PHS senior manager Dan Small on PHS-funded trips to Europe and Disneyland that she believed Small had paid for. Kwan repaid $34,992.57 to PHS and took nearly three weeks off. She claimed the funds were from two lines of credit.

Caucus chair Shane Simpson took over the Housing role on an interim basis.

Kwan, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, now lives in the Vancouver-Point Grey riding represented by David Eby, who happens to be the new NDP Housing critic.

Eby, a rookie MLA and former B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director, was Advanced Education critic and doggedly pursued Minister Amrik Virk over the Kwantlen University executive pay scandal during the spring Legislative session.

Horgan rewarded Eby with a heap of controversial files. Not only is he the new critic for Housing, but he also has Tourism, liquor policy, Liquor Distribution Branch and Crown corporations Destination B.C., B.C. Lottery Corporation and B.C. Pavilion Corporation.

In Question Period, Eby will be quizzing no less than five BC Liberal cabinet ministers: Rich Coleman (Housing), Shirley Bond (Tourism), Suzanne Anton (LDB), Todd Stone (PavCo) and Mike de Jong (BCLC).

In former leader Adrian Dix's post-2013 election shadow cabinet, Mike Farnworth was the Finance critic. He is now caucus house leader and critic for public safety and solicitor general. Farnworth's withdrawal from the leadership contest enabled Horgan's "coronation" and meant the NDP could save money by cancelling the leadership convention. Leonard Krog remains the attorney general critic.

Deputy house leader is Michelle Mungall, who also holds the social development file. She replaces Sue Hammell, who remains mental health and addictions critic.

Carole James, another former leader, becomes Finance critic. Her former Children and Family Development critic role goes to Doug Donaldson. Donaldson, in turn, yielded Aboriginal Relations to Scott Fraser. That file is expected to become a hot potato for Minister John Rustad as Enbridge and Kinder Morgan lobby to build pipelines through territories claimed by various First Nations while the ripple effects are felt from the Supreme Court of Canada decision affirming Tsilhqot'in land title. Premier Christy Clark has scheduled an all-chiefs' meeting for Vancouver on Sept. 11.

Dix, meanwhile, is the new BC Hydro critic, assuming a role held previously by Horgan. Dix had a front-row seat to BC Hydro while chief of staff to then-premier Glen Clark from 1996 to 1999, when, among other things, the Crown corporation was embroiled in a controversial power project in Pakistan.

The B.C. legislature is set to return Oct. 6 and sit until Nov. 27 with two one-week breaks.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

*Story corrected July 23 at 9 p.m.

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