BC Liberals sidelined by focus on COVID pandemic response, says Kelowna MLA

Leadership race called key to party resurgence

Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick. (File photo)

Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick. (File photo)

With an interim leader and overshadowed largely on the media stage by the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Liberal Party is continuing its efforts to hold the feet of the NDP government to the fire, says Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick.

Letnick says the party continues to play its role as Opposition in the legislature, finding some success in altering intended government policy or perceived inaction.

“We have had success in getting the government to change things. One example was moving on declaring the state of emergency for the forest fires,” said Letnick.

“We had an impact on that because the impact of that declaration would be felt mostly in Liberal ridings. There was no smoke in NDP ridings.

“It was not top of mind for (the NDP) but it was for constituents in many of our ridings.”

Letnick also voices some frustration at the Vancouver and Victoria media being what he feels is partial to the NDP, seemingly unwilling to give coverage to the Liberal Opposition for getting Premier John Horgan’s government to do anything, combined with the COVID pandemic response absorbing all the oxygen on the provincial media stage.

While Letnick thinks Prince George MLA Shirley Bond has done a terrific job as interim party leader, he feels the Liberal point of view will gain greater traction when the party members elect a new permanent leader next year.

“When there is a single lead spokesperson for the Opposition, I think the media will start to pay more attention to what we are saying and doing,” he said.

Since Andrew Wilkinson announced his resignation as Liberal leader after the last provincial election, five candidates have stepped up to run for the party leadership.

Those candidates include Kelowna-Mission MLA and current health critic Renee Merrifield along with Gavin Dew, Kevin Falcon, Michael Lee, Val Litwin and Ellis Ross.

Letnick said a host of issues will face whoever wins the leadership race, from placing their stamp on the caucus ministry critic positions to issues like the pandemic, climate change, social housing, economic growth and child care.

“We can’t afford to do everything for everybody so the party will have to prioritize and tell voters what the party will advocate for,” he said.

Letnick said as a member of the Liberal Party fundraising committee, he is required to remain neutral and not publicly advocate for any of the leadership candidates.

“The position of the committee members is not that different from interim leader Shirley Bond. I will support all the candidates who come here and attend any functions they invite me to. As a voter, I want to hear what each of them stands for wish all of them the best of luck,” he said.

“I hope whoever wins will become the next premier of the province and I will work to make that happen.”

The Liberal election rules are such that each of B.C.’s 87 ridings, regardless of general population or party membership, will count the same 100 points toward a closed ballot victory, so Letnick said each of the candidates can’t rely on larger urban ridings to win the nomination.

“So the discussion about the future of the party will be carried out in ridings across the province,” he said.

The Liberal leadership convention will take place Feb. 5, 2022.

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