New B.C. NDP cabinet ministers are going to be loaded up with briefing books from the bureaucrats.
They're also going to receive countless invitations from the heads of business groups, nonprofit associations, unions, and others. And with a one-seat majority, NDP cabinet ministers can't neglect being politicians in their own constituencies, which means they'll be at scores of events.
It won't leave a lot of time for reading. But sometimes a single book can transform a politician's outlook on the world and lead to dramatic new public policies.
Had former premier Gordon Campbell not read The Weather Makers: The History and Future of Climate Change, B.C. might not have a carbon tax today.
With that in mind, here are book recommendations for each member of Premier John Horgan's new cabinet.
Premier John Horgan
Just Cool It: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington
B.C.'s ongoing wildfires and the severe flooding in May and June demonstrated that the climate crisis is not something in the distance. It's very real and it's happening now.
Suzuki and Hanington's new book outlines the scope of the problem, as well as a vast array of technological and institutional solutions. Canadians need national leadership and there's an opportunity for Horgan to fill the void that's been created by the Trudeau government's predilection for ramping up bitumen extraction and shipping it to foreign markets.
Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister Melanie Mark
Reflections of Canada: Illuminating Our Opportunities and Challenges at 150+ Years, by the Peter Wall Institute
This collection of essays by many of B.C.'s leading thinkers offers deep insights into a wide range of public policies and critical public issues. After reading this book, Mark will have a better sense of the intellectual currents at play in B.C.'s postsecondary system and how the ideas of academics can truly change the world.
B.C. is emerging as a leader in interdisciplinary approaches to postsecondary education, and this book is just one of many examples of that. The silos are being shattered and that's creating new opportunities for the province.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham
The Carbon Bubble: What Happens to Us When It Bursts, by Jeff Rubin
The former chief economist of CIBC World Markets describes in a very straightforward way how farmland has become the new gold. And Canada's agricultural sector is poised to benefit enormously from longer growing seasons north of the 49th parallel.
I have a hunch that Popham has probably already read this book. If this is the case she should turn over her copy to Finance Minister Carole James or Health Minister Adrian Dix, because they're probably going to have more influence than almost anyone else in cabinet.
Attorney General David Eby
Maximum Canada: Why 35 Million Canadians Are Not Enough, by Douglas Saunders
I would recommend any of Saunders's books, including Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World and The Myth of the Muslim Tide, to anyone in the B.C. cabinet. But the Globe and Mail columnist's soon-to-be-released examination of immigration is one of those books that will truly reshape many people's perceptions about Canada. I've received an advance copy and it's just as illuminating as his previous two books.
Media outlets have a tendency to bombard readers with articles about the downside of immigration. Saunders, on the other hand, reveals how this mindset, which has permeated Canada since before Confederation, has come at an enormous cost to the country.
Eby is going to be busy in his new job, but if he has the time, he might also want to pick up Madness in the Streets: How Psychiatry and the Law Abandoned the Mentally Ill, by Rael Jean Isaac and Virginia C. Armat. It demonstrates how civil libertarians across North American contributed to the crisis of homelessness. It's something that he, as a former executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, might want to be aware of.
Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy
Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children, by Joel Bakan
The new minister of children and family development, Katrine Conroy, can learn much of what she needs to know about children in government care from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's reports. The former child and youth advocate's writings provide a blueprint for moving forward.
But there's another issue to address, and that's how big business ruthlessly exploits children and youth to fatten its bottom line and reward shareholders. UBC law professor Joel Bakan's Childhood Under Siege offers many of the gory details, covering everything from video games to lead poisoning to pill-pushing pharmaceutical companies. Someone is going to have to advocate for kids at the cabinet table in these areas, and Conroy will be better positioned to do this if she reads Bakan's book.
Minister for State for Child Care Katrina Chen
Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century, by Orville Schell and John Delury
Child care is vitally important, but Chen will get lots of insights in this area from the $10aDay Child Care Campaign. It will also be important for the Taiwanese-born Chen to educate her cabinet colleagues about China and Taiwan because she's the only fluent Mandarin speaker in the cabinet.
There are many great books on the Far East. One I would recommend is Wealth and Power, which is U.S. historians Orville Schell and John Delury's overview of Chinese history. It pays particular attention to the humiliation meted out by colonial powers in the mid 1800s and helps explain the mindset of modern Chinese rulers.
In a similar vein, Indian historian Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy is a highly readable account of the political evolution of modern India.
Nearly 40 percent of the world's population lives in China and India. B.C. will be better off in the long run if cabinet members are better informed about these countries.
Citizens' Services Minister Jinny Sims
Full Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, by Sandi Doughton
One of Jinny Sims's responsibilities is emergency preparedness, which means getting the province ready for natural disasters. Seattle Times science reporter Sandi Doughton's 2013 book is a serious examination of earthquake preparation in our part of North America.
It also includes a shocking section on the shortcomings of many high-rises in Vancouver.
"You've got people with million-dollar condos who have no idea the building they live in is very susceptible to being damaged or potentially collapsing in an earthquake," UBC engineering professor Perry Adebar says on page 191. "There's no process to say, 'This is a bad building.' "
Sims is in a position to address this situation. Let's hope she does so.
Education Minister Rob Fleming
Mindfulness in education for children, adolescents, early adults, and teachers: Emerging theory, research, and programs, edited by Kimberley Schonert-Reichl and Robert Roesner
Some of the most exciting educational research is in the field of emotional self-regulation. It's demonstrating how students can take steps to address stress when it happens, which can facilitate learning. Two of the leaders are Kimberley Schonert-Reichl and Robert Roesner, and this upcoming book will outline recent findings in this area.
B.C. has been an international leader in advancing this concept thanks to the efforts of Schonert-Reichl, Roesner, and others. And if the new education minister becomes more familiar with their research, it could have a positive impact on a generation of kids in the public school system.
Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall
The Frackers, by Gregory Zuckerman
There are plenty of ways to learn about the harmful environmental effects of fracking, which is well worth examining. But this book by Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman explains how trail-blazing U.S. wildcatters spawned an energy revolution. It came from discovering new ways to extract oil and natural gas through horizontal drilling. It's also led to U.S. energy self-sufficiency, an unheard-of concept prior to 2008.
This has had a devastating impact on B.C. natural gas exports and natural gas revenues to the province. And the American frackers are a major reason why the B.C. Liberal government so eagerly looked to Asia as a new market for B.C. liquefied natural gas.
The new energy, mines and petroleum resources minister, Michelle Mungall, will have a much better sense of the business side of this story if she reads The Frackers (if she hasn't done so already). She should become familiar with the billionaire frackers because some of them are top advisers to U.S. president Donald Trump.
Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman
The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Towards a Greener Future, by David Boyd
Heyman doesn't need to be schooled on the dangers of climate change and the appropriate policy responses, the rise of the circular economy, or the renewable-energy revolution. But he might benefit from reading Boyd's cheery exploration of how the world has successfully tackled major environmental problems in a multitude of areas.
It's like a motivational book for solving the Earth's greatest challenges and a welcome alternative to sometimes dreary books on climate change. If Heyman adopts the same can-do attitude as Boyd, there's no telling what he might accomplish in galvanizing the public and his cabinet colleagues to do the right thing for the planet.
Boyd cochairs Greenest City Action Team, which has helped Vancouver reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and adapt to climate change.
Finance Minister Carole James
The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, by Paul Krugman
Some in the Canadian media have made balancing the budget the be-all and end-all of public policy. This idea was slavishly followed by unimaginative former finance minister Mike de Jong and former premier Christy Clark.
This book by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman demonstrates the folly of this thinking when a slowing economy is the result of a shortage of demand for goods and services. It's worth reading well in advance of the next global financial crisis.
James has been a fairly cautious and centrist politician throughout her career. She might gain a more radical sensibility if she were to read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, as well as Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks's The Trouble With Billionaires: How the Super-Rich Hijacked the World and How We Can Take It Back.
Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations, and Rural Development Minister Doug Donaldson
Touch Wood: BC Forests at the Crossroads, edited by Ken Drushka, Bob Nixon, and Ray Travers
It's nearly 25 years old, but this book lays out the history of B.C. forest policies unlike anything else. It shows how the tenure system has been transformed to benefit huge corporations at the cost of B.C. jobs and revenues for the provincial government.
Everyone likes talking tough with the Americans about whether B.C. softwood lumber subsidized. To suggest that the Americans have a point with their arguments is seen as sheer heresy—even treasonous in some circles. But anyone who reads Touch Wood will know the deck has been stacked for decades, and it's not just those south of the border who are the victims.
Health Minister Adrian Dix
Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians, by Dr. Danielle Martin
The Toronto-based general practitioner, hospital administrator, and cofounder of Canadian Doctors for Medicare offers a clear prescription to improve the health-care system. The six big ideas include focusing on the importance of family physicians and recognizing the benefits of a national drug plan.
Martin also includes a chapter on the downside of unnecessary diagnostic testing. This subject receives even more fulsome treatment in UVic professor Alan Cassels's Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease. My guess is that Dix has probably already read that book, which is why it isn't at the top of my recommended list for the new health minister.
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser
Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call, by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson
Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival, by Bev Sellars
Both of these books are outstanding analyses of the impact of colonialism on Canada's Indigenous peoples, and both are written by B.C. writers with deep connections to the province. Arthur Manuel, one of the country's foremost Indigenous intellectuals, died less than a year after Unsettling Canada was published. The book by Bev Sellars documents the incredible contributions of Indigenous North Americans to the world—and this is something that has long gone unappreciated by historians.
True reconciliation cannot occur without full acknowledgement of what's been lost—and Unsettling Canada and Price Paid shed necessary new understanding of that.
Jobs, Trade, and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston
Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, by Robert Reich
One of Bruce Ralston's top priorities will be to kick-start B.C.'s economy into high gear, but he also has to recognize that the behemoths in the tech world, like Amazon and Facebook, are crushing innovation.
University of California, Berkeley political economist Robert Reich's brilliant book outlines how policymakers can not only take steps to level the playing field for those living on lower incomes, but also create the right type of environment for nascent entrepreneurs to thrive in a truly competitive market.
Minister for State for Trade George Chow
The Xi Jinping Era: His Comprehensive Strategy Toward the China Dream, by Liu Hong, Ying Cheng, Zhou Xingwang, and Tan Huosheng
Written by Chinese journalists and academics, this is a hagiographical account of Chinese president Xi Jinping. But that's not to say it's worth tossing into the trash. That's because it provides great information about his origins, his family's experiences in the Cultural Revolution, how his father spearheaded the growth of capitalism in Guangdong, and how Xi was shaped by more than two decades heading the government of Fujian province.
Xi has emerged as the most important president of China since Deng Xiaoping—and B.C. politicians should try to be as knowledgeable about him as they are of Trump. The Xi Jinping Era reveals the world from Xi's perspective, which is a pretty good start for a minister who's going to play a leading role in dealing with trade with China.
For a more critical look at China, Chow might also want to read economist Loretta Napoleoni's Maonomics: Why Chinese Communists Make Better Capitalists Than We Do.
Labour Minister Harry Bains
Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918-1919, Canada's First War on Terror, by Daniel Francis
This book by North Vancouver historian Daniel Francis is a lively account of the Winnipeg general strike of 1919, but it goes way beyond that. It also delves into former prime minister Robert Borden's secret war against trade unionists and immigrants—and how his Conservative government was aided and abetted by the mainstream newspapers and magazines.
As the labour minister, Bains could face some of the same types of attacks as he modernizes the Labour Code and enhances employment standards. Seeing Reds explores how xenophobia reached epic proportions in Canada prior to and during the First World War, and it offers lessons to human-rights activists, like Bains, to prevent this from occurring more than a century later.
Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction, by Dr. Gabor Maté
There are lots of books explaining the science of addiction and others that document the tragic results of deinstitutionalization gone wrong. But no other book that I've read does such a fantastic job in conveying the neurobiology of addiction, the cost of the war on drugs, strategies for healing, and the role that trauma plays in people becoming wired on drugs.
It's a landmark book by one of Vancouver's foremost public intellectuals. The section on attunement and infants' brain development should also be required reading for the children and family development minister, as well.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson
How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly—and the Stark Choices Ahead, by Dambisa Moyo
This is an unconventional choice: a book by a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who's become a darling of the right. It's still worth reading because it reveals how the western world's obsession with home ownership is throttling economic productivity.
In addition, How the West Was Lost offers startling observations on China's approach to trade: in Moyo's opinion, it's a "volume maximizer" that wants to provide all goods and services for cheaper prices than its competitors. This turns the ideas of British economist David Ricardo on their head.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth
The Last Guardians: The Crisis in the RCMP...and in Canada, by Paul Palango
This book is a bit dated, having been published in 1998, but it still holds up as a fine examination of some of the biggest challenges facing the Mounties. Palango outlines how young recruits end up working for big-city detachments in Burnaby, North Vancouver, and Richmond because veterans want to be transferred to where housing prices are lower.
The preponderance of young officers can have unfortunate consequences in the cities where they're stationed. Just witness what happened to Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport in 2007 when four Mounties showed up all pumped full of adrenaline.
Palango has written two other books on the RCMP, which are also illuminating, but The Last Guardians provides the best look at what's happening on the ground in the Lower Mainland.
A local book that provides deep insight into policing gone wrong is Lorimer Shenher's outstanding That Lonely Section of Hell: The Botched Investigation of a Serial Killer Who Almost Got Away.
Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson
The 1200 Days: A Shattered Dream, by Lorne J. Kavic and Garry Brian Nixon
Shane Simpson doesn't need to me to teach him about the Ministry of Social Development or how to write a poverty-reduction plan. But it would be helpful if he aimed high in his new and important job.
The 1200 Days tells the story of how Dave Barrett's first NDP government charged ahead with bold ideas, but also how it attracted miserable publicity with its welfare reforms. That was in part because the minister of the day, Norm Levi, didn't listen to his brilliant cabinet colleague, Bob Williams.
Levi talked a lot about a guaranteed annual income, according to Kavic and Nixon's book, but he never took steps to implement it. There's a lesson in there for the current NDP government.
For something more up to date, Simpson should also read Andrew MacLeod's stellar A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia. It would have been my first recommendation, but I have a hunch that the new social development minister has probably already read it.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Lisa Beare
The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life, by Richard Florida
University of Toronto business professor Richard Florida has likely done more than anyone else to advance the notion that the economic health of cities is integrally linked to the creative people who live there. This notion underscores why a vibrant arts and cultural sector is essential as a magnet for the type of residents who will help communities flourish economically.
This concept was also brilliantly articulated in a 2007 Vancity report called The Power of the Arts in Vancouver: Creating a Great City. It was written by Italian professor Pier Luigi Sacco with the help of former Vancity director Bob Williams and former Vancity research associate Elvy Del Bianco.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena
Megaproject Planning and Management: Essential Readings, by Bent Flyvbjerg
A Danish planning professor now at Oxford University, Bent Flyvbjerg is perhaps the world's leading authority on why infrastructure projects so often go over budget.
In a 2015 article in the New Yorker, Flyvbjerg explained that most billion-dollar-plus projects are poorly executed and never should have been considered in the first place. According to Flyvbjerg, nine out of 10 have cost overruns and most take far longer to build than initially forecast.
The most recent example in B.C. is the Evergreen Extension to Coquitlam.
Megaproject Planning and Management: Essential Readings is a compilation of essays on the topic. The new minister, Claire Travena, could read them at her leisure while riding B.C. Ferries back and forth between Vancouver Island and either the Lower Mainland or the Sunshine Coast.
I imagine she would be the first infrastructure minister in recent B.C. history to acquaint herself with the work of Flyvbjerg, and for that, the taxpayers would be forever in her debt.
An invitation to cabinet ministers
New Democrats tend to be a far more bookish group than B.C. Liberals. That's one reason why I never dreamed of asking former premier Christy Clark to write any book reviews for this site.
For any B.C. NDP cabinet ministers who see this article—and who actually read their recommended book or books—here's an invitation: they can submit a book review to this website and we will publish it.