B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)

Carole James stays on to advise B.C. Premier John Horgan

Retired finance minister to earn a dollar a year

Retired former NDP leader and finance minister Carole James has agreed to B.C. Premier John Horgan’s request to help him navigate the coming year of economic uncertainty due to COVID-19.

Horgan said his long-time friend and colleague in the B.C. legislature since they were both elected in 2005 can offer her expertise and calm leadership in a part-time capacity, as she deals with a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis that led her to announce her retirement last spring. He expressed hope that James would continue longer into the NDP government’s four-year majority mandate.

“I’m going to pay her the princely sum of a dollar,” Horgan told reporters after his new cabinet was sworn in last week by video conference. “I offered her five bucks for a five-year contract. She said, ‘I’ll take it a dollar at a time.’”

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Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson moves from municipal affairs and housing to the finance ministry, inheriting a coronavirus-driven deficit that is closing in on $13 billion for the fiscal year ending in March. Robinson’s first task is to deliver on Horgan’s election promise of pandemic recovery payments of $1,000 per household or $500 per individual to most people in the province, which is expected to add another $1.4 billion to the deficit, then produce another budget for the coming year.

James led borrowing of $5 billion for B.C.’s initial pandemic relief this summer, including $1,000 payments to anyone who qualified for federal emergency aid due to lost income from COVID-19 restrictions. About $1.5 billion of that remains to be paid out to businesses, another immediate priority of the NDP government.


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