Comox Valley MLA Don McRae’s new cabinet portfolio is about to take a new direction.
McRae was sworn in Monday as Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation after Premier Christy Clark shuffled the cabinet Friday.
While social development has been the cornerstone of the ministry for some time, the social innovation piece signifies a new direction in terms of developing roles, he indicated in an interview.
“It’s something that they’ve asked us to try to encourage and grow in the province,” said McRae, who formerly served as education minister and agriculture minister.
Along with his new post, McRae will serve on the influential Priorities and Planning Committee chaired by Clark, and the Cabinet Committee on Secure Tomorrow.
“The learning curve in my political career has been outstanding. I can’t say I’ve ever been bored.”
He notes a “whole buffet of government issues and priorities” in the past four years, starting with his first ministry in agriculture and then switching to education.
“I’ve been very lucky, I think, as a relatively new MLA to have this sort of opportunity,” said McRae, who defended his Comox Valley seat in the recent provincial election.
McRae was a high school teacher before becoming a member of Courtenay council in 2002. He captured the B.C. Liberal nomination for the Comox Valley in 2009 following the untimely death of Stan Hagen, and was elected MLA in the May provincial election
Under his new portfolio, McRae will:
• Ensure that significant reforms at Community Living British Columbia are fully implemented and benefiting families.
• Continue efforts to assist people with disabilities earn an income.
• Deliver on government’s commitment “to make B.C. Canada’s most progressive province for people and families living with disabilities,” Clark said in a statement.
The SDSI ministry budget is about $2.5 billion. It involves several thousand employees.
“It’s a very large ministry and it’s pretty much in most reasonably sized communities across British Columbia,” McRae said. “People who live in small towns can access online or by phone.”
When he worked as a teacher, McRae encountered many people with some level of disability. He notes society’s desire to accommodate individuals with physical and mental challenges into the workforce.
“Some of them have just absolutely amazing employment skills, and it’s the right thing to do,” McRae said. “It’s something that I think we need as a government to begin to work with the community.”