Columbia River-Revelstoke residents have a cabinet member as MLA for the first time in a long time, with incumbent Premier Christy Clark having appointed Doug Clovechok as Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier last week.
The riding was established in 1991, and the first Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA, Jim Doyle, held several cabinet positions, including Minister of Forests and Minister of Municipal Affairs, during his decade-long tenure, but since 2001 Columbia River-Revelstoke MLAs have been backbenchers or in opposition. That all changed on Monday, June 12th, when Liberal leader Clark announced her cabinet – but with the NDP and Greens having worked out a deal to vote together on confidence measures (the two parties have a combined 44 seats in the legislature compared with 43 for the BC Liberals), the cabinet may not last long. Indeed — although nothing was certain as of Echo press time — Clark’s throne speech might be held this week, possibly even on Thursday, June 22nd, with the NDP and Greens poised to then vote down the speech and topple the government.
But, as of press time, nothing was 100 per cent in that regard and Clovechok was already busy in his new Parliamentary Secretary role.
“I didn’t expect to get a cabinet position, so it comes as a bit of a surprise. I’ve spent a lot of the last few days learning about what a Parliamentary Secretary does, and it’s actually pretty exciting. I’m humbled that the Premier has the confidence in me,” Clovechok told The Echo. “It’s a credit to all the people who helped get me elected. They are the ones that got me here.”
Although Columbia River-Revelstoke has been represented by an opposition or backbench MLA for the past 16 years, former Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett (Kootenay East is the riding immediately to the south of Columbia River-Revelstoke) had held cabinet positions for much of those 16 years, and had become known during that time as the voice of the Kootenay region in the government. Clovechok’s appointment means the region continues to be in cabinet, with Clovechok telling The Echo that Clark’s decision to tap him for his new role means “she didn’t forget about the Kootenays. She cares about the people here.”
Fellow new Liberal MLA Tom Shypitka has replaced the outgoing Bennett in Kootenay East. Clovechok said the two of them are already going by the monicker of ‘the Kootenay Coalition’ and have started working jointly together on various issues of particular importance to the East Kootenay, such as wildlife management.
Clovechok explained that in his Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier role he is a sort of “assistant minister”, and the role involves working on files on the premier’s behalf, attending events on her behalf and working directly with the other cabinet ministers.
He’s also been involved in the Premier’s throne speech and told The Echo, on Friday, June 16th, that the throne speech could happen on Thursday, June 22nd.
“It’s a historical moment. This (the current government situation) has never happened before. Parliamentary lawyers are scratching their heads over this one,” said Clovechok. “It’s going to be an interesting week.”
In terms of local issues, Clovechok said he’s already been working on flooding issues in Parson; house building issues in Revelstoke; had meetings with different wildlife and trail groups; and has been going to as many local events as possible.