Provincial NDP, Liberals announce key staff positions

Kate Van Meer-Mass becomes director of operations in the Premier's Office, which will involve tour planning, scheduling and other leadership responsibilities | Photo: Flickr

Premier Christy Clark has announced the B.C. Liberals’ key staffers as the party transitions to its new role in Opposition, as NDP premier-designate John Horgan named six women who will help fill out his leadership team.

The Liberal appointments include seasoned staffers and communications professionals.

“These appointments will support our strong and experienced team of 43 MLAs in the legislature. Together, I believe we will form an extremely effective Opposition to hold the NDP-Green alliance to account on behalf of British Columbians,” said an email signed by Clark and sent to Liberal staff and caucus on Tuesday.

Clark has appointed Nick Koolsbergen as chief of staff. Koolsbergen most recently served as executive director of communications and research for the Liberal caucus. He was previously director of issues management in the Prime Minister’s Office under Stephen Harper.

Jessica Woolford will serve as deputy chief of staff under Koolsbergen. She most recently worked as executive director of corporate priorities at government communications and public engagement. She previously served as chief of staff to Transportation Minister Todd Stone and as an adviser to ministers Mary Polak and Shirley Bond.

Clark’s press secretary, Stephen Smart, will move into the role of executive director of communications and issues management for the Liberal caucus. Smart has worked as a CBC reporter and has 18 years of media experience.

Primrose Carson will serve as executive director of operations and MLA support for the caucus.

“Now that our leadership team is in place, in the coming days we will move forward with interviews of those staff who have expressed an interest in continuing to serve British Columbians through the B.C. Liberal Caucus,” the email said.

Some senior Liberal staffers were not named, suggesting they might not join the Opposition team. They include Ben Chin, executive director of communications and issues management; Mike McDonald, chief of staff and director of the Liberals’ successful 2013 election campaign; and deputy chief of staff Michele Cardario.

Horgan was asked by B.C.’s lieutenant-governor to form government after the Liberals were defeated June 29 in a confidence motion at the legislature. The NDP and Green Party have a co-operation agreement and together hold a one-seat advantage over the Liberals.

The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for July 18.

Horgan also announced more members of the NDP leadership team.

The six women, many of whom played key roles in Horgan’s election campaign, will serve in roles ranging from communications director to the head of a new office dedicated to delivering on the NDP-Green alliance agreement.

“After 16 years, we have a lot of work to do to address the problems caused by B.C. Liberal choices,” said Carole James, Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA and transition spokeswoman, in a statement.

“I’m confident that the leadership team we’re building has the energy, drive and commitment to deliver the change we promised British Columbians.”

Donna Sanford, senior policy analyst at the climate action secretariat, will move into the role of executive director of the confidence and supply agreement secretariat. The new office will be responsible for delivering on the agreement between the NDP and Green parties, which sets out key priorities such as campaign-finance laws and electoral reform.

Horgan said the secretariat will boost transparency.

“That’s designed to be open and transparent so the public understands that we want to make this minority situation work,” he said.

“I want to make sure the public has confidence in the decisions being made. That’s why we’re putting in place the secretariat.”

Sage Aaron will serve as director of communications in the Premier’s Office, moving from the same role at labour union MoveUP.

Kate Van Meer-Mass becomes director of operations in the Premier’s Office, which will involve tour planning, scheduling and other leadership responsibilities.

Jen Holmwood assumes the role of deputy director of communications in the Premier’s Office. Sheena McConnell will serve as Horgan’s press secretary and Marie Della Mattia will work as special adviser to Horgan. All three held similar roles when the NDP was in Opposition.

Times Colonist