Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond leads debate on a bill to delay the provincial budget for a second time, at the B.C. legislature, Dec. 16, 2020. (Hansard TV)

Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond leads debate on a bill to delay the provincial budget for a second time, at the B.C. legislature, Dec. 16, 2020. (Hansard TV)

How does the ‘British Columbia Party’ sound for 2021?

Interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond looks ahead

At the end of another brief legislature session following the October election, Black Press legislature reporter Tom Fletcher spoke with interim B.C. Liberal leader Shirley Bond Dec. 16 about the year gone by and the one to come.

TF: How long do you expect to have the job of interim leader?

SB: Obviously I have made a commitment to our caucus and to the party that I don’t intend to seek the permanent leadership, and I won’t be supporting a particular campaign. The party will lay out a series of steps that will ultimately lead to a leadership campaign, I would assume not too late next year.

TF: You come from federal Conservative country in Prince George, how’s B.C.’s traditional free-enterprise coalition looking to you for next year?

SB: We’re going to take some time to look back and see what happened during this campaign. And part of that is looking at what are the important values that people who support free enterprise in B.C., what are they looking for in that party? Part of that is a dialogue with members, with candidates who were not successful, with British Columbians broadly to talk about, what does our party need to look like going forward, most importantly to figure out how we resonate better with urban voters.

The group of candidates that we did elect, obviously a smaller number than we had hoped for, are working incredibly well together. They’re encouraging one another, they’re stepping up to their critic roles. British Columbia’s going to get to know them a lot better in the next year.

TF: Former finance minister Colin Hansen was the last prominent B.C. Liberal to propose that the name should be changed, and I understand that the British Columbia Party name may be available now. What do you think about that?

SB: As we’ve started our engagement with members and British Columbians, I can assure you that many of them have raised the issue of the name change. I’m not going to pre-suppose what might eventually be the outcome of that discussion. We need to make sure that we’re having the discussion that at times will be difficult, it will likely be uncomfortable, but it’s all part of listening, learning what’s necessary for us to return to the government side of the benches.

We’ve heard from some people that a name change is important. We’ve heard from others that it’s not as important. I’m sure as we have leadership candidates emerge, those are the kinds of questions they’re going to be grappling with as well.

TF: The first round of BC’s $1,000 COVID relief payments opened April 1, and it was only to people who were approved for CERB, the federal program, so it was a test of actual loss from the pandemic. Now the second round is for almost everybody. Is there a case to be made to change that, and failing that vote against it?

SB: What we’ve supported is that British Columbians get the kind of direct support that they need. We came back to the legislature in a non-partisan way [in March] to provide a unanimous yes in a very short period of time, to approve a $5 billion package of supports for British Columbia’s individuals and businesses. We obviously have questions about $1.5 billion of that.

[The $1.5 billion includes business and tourism aid approved in March, with major program changes announced Dec. 21. Two days after this interview, Bond joined 28 B.C. Liberal MLAs and two B.C. Greens in a unanimous vote to borrow another $2 billion.]

SB: We actually want to make sure that British Columbians who need help, get it. And we’re not going to stand in the way of making sure that when there are families who require support to feed their families or to help them as they’ve dealt with job loss. I think that most British Columbians would expect that politicians can set aside a partisan approach and make sure that help is forthcoming.

The premier made a promise that all British Columbians would get support. We’re certainly finding out now that that is highly unlikely to happen, and I think he should be asked to explain how you make up a promise during a campaign, and then you don’t seem to have the program in place to deliver it in an effective way.

RELATED: Election didn’t delay COVID aid, Horgan says at year-end

TF: With the federal debt and deficit growing so fast, the permanent increase in health care costs, how does B.C.’s financial picture look to you for 2021 and beyond that?

SB: Our first priority is to make sure that vulnerable British Columbians have the support they need during these unprecedented times. I think we also need to recognize that sectors like tourism, hospitality, they have been decimated by COVID, and frankly they are still hanging on by a thread while they wait for this government to figure out how to get financial assistance flowing out the door.

Over the longer term, what we expect this government to do is make sure there is a credible economic recovery plan in place. And I have every confidence in our critics. A number of them will be raising important issues about the lack of a credible economic recovery plan.

We do need to begin to address the issue of debt, how we are going to restore confidence in our province, so investors find us an important priority in terms of investment, job creation. All of those things matter. So we will continue to focus on the health care side of the agenda, but at the same time be asking those important questions about the economic crisis that British Columbia potentially faces.

TF: Most people won’t think much about delaying the budget to the end of April, what are the concerns there?

SB: We need to know what B.C.’s fiscal state is. I guess our greater concern is the uncertainty that creates for non-profits, for programs, for school districts. There is a requirement to table a budget in British Columbia, and what we’ve seen now is a government that said, not only do we need one month of extension, we need two months.

RELATED: NDP delays 2021 budget, moves to borrow more

This is not a new government. This is a premier who said that his calling of a risky pandemic election would not stop the work of government, and what we’ve found out is that’s not actually accurate. We’ve seen bureaucratic programs that are difficult for small businesses to apply for. We’ve seen cuts to persons with disabilities and their supports. There has been a delay in important programs.

TF: What’s your number one wish for 2021?

SB: My number one wish is that we find ourselves in a place where the pandemic has moderated and that we have a thorough roll-out of vaccine in the province. My wish is that people have the opportunity to be together again.

The heart-wrenching scenes of families separated from their loved ones in long-term care, the challenges families are facing with frail elderly parents in the Christmas season. Although it was not directly COVID-related, I lost my husband this past year, and had an inability to be with him during the most difficult days of his life. I want to make sure that other families do not find themselves in those circumstances in 2021.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsBest of 2020Coronavirus

Just Posted

Surrey Mayor delivering “virtual” State of the City Address on Tuesday. (Screen shot)
Surrey Mayor says city is ‘earning accolades from near and far’

Doug McCallum delivered his second State of the City Address on Tuesday since being elected in 2018

North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex. (Photo: larkgroup.com)
North Surrey rink, Newton playground earn B.C. excellence awards

Awards presented by BC Recreation and Parks Association

The George Massey Tunnel will be closed overnight May 28 and 29 to test the tunnel’s fire suppression system and overhead lane control signals. (Black Press Media file photo)
Overnight Massey Tunnel closures coming May 28, 29

Closure to allow safe testing of tunnel’s fire suppression system and overhead lane control signals

Missing Surrey man Bernard Grempel. (Photo: Surrey RCMP)
Surrey RCMP seeks help to find missing man

Bernard Grempel was reported missing on Sunday and hasn’t been seen since Friday

Members of Whalley Legion Junior Band at an event in the early 1980s. (Facebook photo)
SURREY NOW & THEN: When the city’s ‘official band’ marched with Whalley Legion title

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Dr. Euiseok Kim is the medical director of the new Abbotsford post-COVID-19 recovery clinic. (Submitted)
Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic opens in Abbotsford

New facility following model of first clinic which opened in Surrey

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

Two small dogs were also discovered by the officer, one had died, and the other was taken by animal control and sent for veterinary care with the BC SPCA. (File Photo)
Body discovered in parked van in Mission with 2 dogs, 1 dead

Remains in state of decomposure, surviving dog sent for veterinary care with BC SPCA

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Cat who chases away coyote asked to join Port Moody, Vancouver police 

Caught on camera Friday, the black cat jumps out from under a parked car and runs the wild animal out of a vacant lot

Most Read