Rustad Named BC Forests Minister, Maintains Aboriginal Relations Portfolio

The BC Legislature has a new speaker -- and that means John Rustad has a new job.

Rustad is taking over the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, after former minister Steve Thomson was acclaimed as speaker yesterday.  

Rustad will also continue as Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.

And the Nechako Lakes MLA says there's a big job ahead.

"I look forward to the work we have, there's a lot on the plate and things that need to get addressed right away and so I have solid forestry background and obviously forestry is an important component of my riding and really throughout the north and it's actually an interesting combination with Aboriginal Relations as well, but I look forward to the work that needs to be done, there's obviously some very important issues with respect to softwood lumber, with flooding that's going on, as well as timber allocations and other things so it's going to be a busy time, even though it may be a short time," he said.

It's expected New Democrat Leader John Horgan will introduce a non-confidence motion next week, and the combined NDP and Green opposition will bring down the Liberal government.

After that, it's anyone's guess what will happen -- including whether or not Thomson stays on as Speaker. 

Yesterday, the Clark Government delivered a throne speech, crammed with promises that appeared to be taken directly from the NDP and Green Party campaigns in last month's provincial election.

The speech also promised a referendum on electoral reform, the elimination of tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges in Metro Vancouver, cutting medical services premiums and a promise to raise monthly welfare rates by 100 dollars and spend one billion dollars on early childhood education.

Rookie Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says the Liberals can afford to deliver these promises through their sound fiscal management.

"Talking to my fellow MLAs and ministers, they're people of integrity, and will live up to their commitment -- and what I like about the commitment, though, is that it's backed by the revenues, so that our government doesn't have to go into a deficit."

But the NDP and Green Party leaders say the Liberals have just stolen ideas from them in a desperate attempt to cling to power, and they still intend to defeat the government in a confidence vote next week.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice says that vote will allow her party to govern BC and she's anxious to get to work.

Rice says she's looking forward to tackling issues like the fentanyl crisis, housing, improving ferry service, and addressing the softwood lumber dispute. 

[Reported by John Crawford, Jaylene Matthews and Corey Callaghan]