PHOTOS: St. Albert-born Michelle Mungall was appointed yesterday as British Columbia’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. (Photo: Michelle Mungall candidate website.) Below: B.C.’s NDP premier, John Horgan, who appointed her.
ST. ALBERT, Alberta
You could argue that it’s too bad for Alberta the good people of St. Albert didn’t have the good sense to elect Michelle Mungall back in the 2001 provincial election.
But then, that turned out to be good news for the people of British Columbia.
The St. Albert native and Paul Kane High School graduate ran for the NDP that year here in the bedroom suburb northwest of Edmonton against Liberal stalwart Len Bracko, a former MLA and later a respected city councillor, and Progressive Conservative Mary O’Neill, who was the winner that year.
In her last year as a student at the University of Alberta at the time, Ms. Mungall was the kind of young person members of established parties often mock and dismiss as “placeholders,” and therefore not serious.
In fact, I’m certain I recall just that sort of thing being said about Ms. Mungall at the time. She got about 6 per cent of the vote, though, which was considered a respectable turnout for the NDP in those days.
After university, Ms. Mungall moved to Nelson, B.C., where in November 2002 she ran for city council. She didn’t expect to win there either, her Wikipedia biography says … but she did. She was the youngest city councillor in the Kootenay city’s history and the youngest female city councillor in Canada at the time.
Instead of running again at the end of her first term, she travelled to Africa, where she worked for the Young Women’s Christian Association in Zambia.
She returned to Nelson in 2007 and ran as the B.C. NDP’s candidate for the provincial Legislature two years after that. The people of the Nelson-Creston riding showed their confidence in her by sending her to Victoria as their MLA. She was the first woman ever elected in the riding. She was 31 years old.
Ms. Mungall was re-elected in 2013 and again in the May 9 general election this year, the one that resulted in a minority Legislature and, eventually, an NDP government led by Premier John Horgan, who was sworn in with his cabinet today. This time she had an absolute majority of votes in the riding, an unusual gesture of confidence in our Parliamentary system, especially in B.C.
Yesterday, Premier Horgan named Ms. Mungall to his cabinet as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, an important portfolio traditionally awarded in that province as in this one to people of depth with recognized talent.
It will be a challenging job. At the top of Ms. Mungall’s agenda will be implementing the NDP’s promise to make the contentious $9-billion Site C dam, construction of which is already under way, the subject of a review.
She is not quite 40.
Perhaps as energy minister, Ms. Mungall can help Mr. Horgan understand what makes Albertans tick. Then again, maybe that’s asking too much of anyone.
Regardless, I think those of us who live here should be very proud of this former St. Albertan, but we should also think seriously about her success and her contribution to the province next door when people scoff at young candidates for elected office as inexperienced and therefore not up to the job.
There’s a municipal election coming up here in St. Albert on Oct. 16 this year. There are a number of very bright young people running for city council. As Ms. Mungall’s stellar record suggests, we should give them serious consideration. Perhaps they can make a similarly valuable contribution if we’re smart enough to give them the chance.