Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall has been named the new Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
Mungall was included in B.C. Premier John Horgan’s cabinet Tuesday. She joins 10 other women and 11 men who will form the first NDP cabinet in 16 years.
Mungall said she was floored when first told of the appointment Monday.
“I can’t find the words actually,” she said. “It’s a real honour. It’s just a huge honour to be able to serve my community this way, to serve my region this way and British Columbia as a whole. It is really amazing. I don’t lack understanding of the responsibilities I have and I’m very honoured to have them.”
For the moment, Mungall said her first job is to sit down with staff and review the ministry’s priority files.
Chief among them will be Kinder Morgan’s $7.4-billion Trans Mountain oil pipeline that would carry bitumen from Alberta to Burnaby. The project was endorsed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year, but is opposed by both the B.C. NDP and Green parties.
Mungall can’t move to scrap the deal — interprovince pipelines fall under federal jurisdiction — but she’ll be a player if the NDP attempt to slow the project down in court.
Some of the relevant points in the B.C. NDP’s election platform related to Mungall’s new role include:
• Creating a mining jobs task force to secure employment in the industry despite fluctuating commodity prices.
• Potentially reviving liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, which the NDP support. A report released Tuesday by the National Energy Board said Canada is a “late entrant” to the global LNG market, and that just one LNG project in B.C. has final investment backing to proceed.
• Reviewing hydro rates, which the NDP committed to freezing during the election. Last November, BC Hydro announced plans to increase rates by 16.5 per cent over the next four years.
Mungall said she’s well prepared for the new job. First elected in the Nelson-Creston riding in 2009, Mungall previously served as a Nelson city councillor from 2002 to 2005 when she was also on the Nelson Hydro board of governors.
She said the Kootenays’ importance to energy in B.C. played a role in her appointment to the cabinet.
“There’s a variety of things that go into decision making about how you place people in cabinet positions in terms of what the ministries need,” she said. “Not only did I have experience with Nelson Hydro but our region produces 50 per cent of B.C.’s hydro electricity. We have some of the largest major mines in the province with Elk Valley and with Trail.
“So the very people who are working in this industry are the people who I represent as well.”
Kootenay-West MLA Katrine Conroy was also given the nod as Minister of Children and Family Development.