Don McRae’s new cabinet post can be interpreted as a demotion or a reprieve.
The Comox Valley MLA was one of only two Liberals on Vancouver Island to rise above the NDP tide in the election.
Considering that and the fact he has held two portfolios in his young provincial political career, it would have been a shock had Premier Christy Clark not returned McRae to cabinet.
In a larger, 19-person cabinet, he will head the renamed Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, not the Ministry of Education he led heading into the election.
Ignoring the tiresome spin and sell job in Clark’s wording of McRae’s job description, he will “continue efforts to assist people with disabilities earn an income.”
That’s a noble objective, but it’s a step down from the high-profile education portfolio, which has one of the biggest budgets in government.
McRae presided over an awkward school year notable for job action yet again by the BC Teachers’ Federation followed by more cooling-off legislation from the government.
After that expires at the end of this month, Clark is expected to push for the 10-year contract with the BCTF she trumpeted before the election.
Echoing the law of physics about an equal and opposite reaction to every action, the BCTF is expected to return to the same old dreary trench warfare B.C. has seen many times before.
McRae is earnest and likeable, the kind of opponent the battle-hardened BCTF snacks on before the first recess bell rings.
Clark instead appointed new MLA Peter Fassbender, a former Langley mayor with a reputation for being tough.
Considering how strife-filled BCTF contract negotiations usually are, the premier might have done McRae a favour.
Besides, his experience as a teacher is a double-edged sword. While it gives him credibility, it also raises BCTF hopes unrealistically and might cause his fellow Liberals to fret that he might be soft on his former colleagues.