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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Aldergrove Community Secondary. (Aldergrove Star files)
Noel Booth, Douglas Park, RE Mountain, and Aldergrove Secondary see positive COVID tests

As of Monday, May 10, 18 schools are currently on the Fraser Health exposure list

Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.
ON COOKING: Chef Dez does parsley pesto

Pesto traditionally has fresh basil but it can also be made with another fresh herb

Langley’s Madison Sweeney a 5’8” forward who began her career playing for Walnut Grove Secondary, has signed with the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Cascades women’s soccer team. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley’s Madison Sweeney signs with UFV Cascades soccer team

UFV ‘checks all the boxes’ for former Walnut Grove player

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks drew a large crowd to the Abbotsford Centre in 2019. Canucks management hopes the crowds return for the planned AHL team this fall, and early returns are positive. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Canucks: ‘Incredible’ early interest for Abbotsford AHL tickets

Team has had a strong response to both e-mail information and priority ticket lists

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

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

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Most Read