By Fran Yanor / Legislative Reporter
The significant loss of Liberal seats in the recent B.C. election offers the party an opportunity to reflect, engage and rebuild said re-elected Liberal MLA Shirley Bond, and the unprecedented cooperation of politicians on COVID-related issues may inspire new all-party efforts.
“These are going to be challenging times,” said Bond, elected to represent the riding of Prince George-Valemount for a sixth time. “But they can also be a time of opportunity for us as a party.”
Preliminary election results show the NDP up 14 seats with 55 MLAs; the Liberals down 12 MLAs with 29 seats, and the BC Greens staying steady with a caucus of three.
A final count will be tallied 13 days after the Oct. 24th election. Even if some of the ridings results are altered by outstanding mail-in ballots, the NDP majority will stand.
“From every difficult situation comes opportunity,” said Bond.
She said the Liberal Party needs to ask itself some questions, namely, how do they gain support from more British Columbians? What do voters want them to do differently? She said there needs to be a free enterprise alternative in British Columbia and the Liberals need to figure out how to make that resonate across the province.
“We need to look at gender and ethnicity and find a way to be more inclusive ourselves,” she said. “We need to reflect British Columbia in our caucus.”
The opposition bench will be filled with people largely from northern communities, rural communities, and the interior of British Columbia, said Bond, places where the economy, natural resource development, environmental issues are all a priority.
“How do we attract British Columbians from other parts of the province?” asked Bond. “Otherwise there is going to be this constant electoral divide.”
Choosing a new leader will be part of the rebuilding. Two days after the election, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson stepped down. He’ll stay on until his successor is chosen.
“Leadership races are typically very exciting,” said Bond. “They energize parties.”
It’s a race Bond sounds resolved to watch from offstage.
“I’m excited about who may come forward,” she said. “But I can assure you, it won’t be me. “
Instead, Bond will work to find her “path” within a much smaller caucus.
More all-party cooperation
“One of the things that I think we have to have an honest conversation about,” Bond said, “is how do we find ways to work more constructively?”
The pandemic brought political parties together united in a common cause: the health and safety of British Columbians.
“That’s the kind of thing the electorate wants to see, that conversation between parties,” said Bond. “It’s important for people to see that we can agree on some things.”
At a press conference a day after the election, Premier John Horgan promised to work with every MLA, and listen to all ideas regardless of their source or which party represented the riding.
“If people need help, I don’t care how they voted, or where they live,” Horgan said, promising to do his “level best” to help them.
“I will be looking forward to holding him to that,” Bond said. She already has a list of priorities: developing the Borealis Geothermal project, increased tourism revenue opportunities, and improving housing and seniors care in small communities.
“I’m happy to step up (with) some ideas for how he could support things in our riding,” she said.
COVID has shown, tackling issues together can yield more effective results, said Bond.
“There are other things I’m sure we can explore together as government opposition,” she said. “What are those things? I hope we will find some of them.”
Which doesn’t mean she’ll be letting up from the opposition bench.
“I feel very energized,” said Bond. “We’re going to have to be very aggressive about being heard because the majority government will be a substantive majority.”
She has no illusions the job will be easy.
“The NDP has added some very strong candidates,” she said. “They’ll have a very strong cabinet.”
Ultimately though, her first, and most important job, is representing her constituents, Bond said.
“That’s my number one priority. It always has been.”
Fran Yanor / Local Journalism Initiative / [email protected]