Horgan names key staff for new B.C. premier’s office

John Horgan buttons up his jacket after speaking to the media on Monday from the Rose Garden in Victoria.
CHAD HIPOLITO / The Canadian Press

VICTORIA — Premier-designate John Horgan has named his new communications team as he prepares to assume power July 18.

Four New Democrats who worked on Horgan’s election campaign will now handle the key messaging from the new premier’s office.

Horgan named Sage Aaron his new communications director, Jen Holmwood as deputy communications director, Sheena McConnell as press secretary and Marie Della Mattia a communications “special adviser.”

Kate Van Meer-Mass was named director of operations for the NDP premier’s office.

Aaron served as chair of the communications committee for the NDP’s election planning group, and was also most recently the communications director for MoveUp (Local 378 of the COPE National Union, which represents 12,000 workers in agencies such as the Insurance Corporation of B.C.) She’s the daughter of former NDP MLA Sue Hammell.

As communications director, Aaron will be the senior-most person in charge of media relations and messaging within the premier’s office.

She’ll report to Geoff Meggs, Horgan’s new chief of staff who was named last week and who resigned his seat on Vancouver city council to work for Horgan. 

NDP Leader John Horgan hugs campaign staffers (from left to right) Sheena McConnell, Marie Della Mattia and Kate Van Meer-Mass after buying them flowers during a campaign stop at Granville Island in Vancouver on May 7.

NDP Leader John Horgan hugs campaign staffers (from left to right) Sheena McConnell, Marie Della Mattia and Kate Van Meer-Mass after buying them flowers during a campaign stop at Granville Island in Vancouver on May 7.



Holmwood was the NDP’s primary spokesperson during the election campaign and also worked as a communications specialist at MoveUp. Prior to that she was a communications staffer in the New Democrat caucus.

McConnell will continue as Horgan’s press secretary, a job she’s held for three years while Horgan was opposition leader.

Van Meer-Mass was “wagon master” during the NDP campaign, co-ordinating Horgan’s arrival and departure at events as well as keeping the leader’s campaign operational at a ground level on a day-to-day basis. Those responsibilities will be similar to running operations in the new premier’s office.

Della Mattia was one of Horgan’s most trusted advisers in the campaign and worked closely with NDP campaign director Bob Dewar. Both have said they never intended to take full-time senior roles in an NDP administration, and both have since taken special adviser titles to continue helping Horgan as premier in the future on an as-needed basis and on special priority files.

Horgan is also creating a new Confidence and Supply Agreement Secretariat to manage his party’s power-sharing deal with the B.C. Greens. Donna Sanford, currently a senior policy analyst in the Climate Action Secretariat, will become executive director of the new NDP/Green management office.

“We’ve announced a co-ordination effort with respect to our agreement with the Green caucus that’s designed to be open and transparent so the public understands we want to make this minority situation work,” said Horgan, whose deal with the Greens allowed him to topple the Liberal government by a one-vote margin on a confidence vote June 29.

No salaries were released for the staff, with the NDP saying such figures will be available after the official swearing-in on July 18.

Outgoing Liberal cabinet minister Andrew Wilkinson said the public shouldn’t have to pay for dedicated staff to manage the politics of the NDP and Greens.

“It’s very surprising they’d take this as a priority, that they’d use taxpayers funds to hire public servants to perform what is essentially a relationship between two political parties,” he said. “That is inappropriate and they should reconsider.”

Horgan will also name his cabinet at the swearing-in ceremony at Government House in Victoria. Behind the scenes, his deputy minister Don Wright is setting in place the senior ranks of a new NDP civil service and transitioning the party into government. New Democrats will also be hiring and firing dozens of political staffers, communications officials and senior bureaucrats as they assume power.




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