The B.C. Liberal Party is going to “take some time to look back” at the setbacks of the October election before launching into a leadership contest, interim leader Shirley Bond says.
Meanwhile, the 19-year veteran MLA for Prince George-Valemount is urging Premier John Horgan to continue working with opposition parties on the response to COVID-19 when the B.C. legislature convenes Dec. 7 for a session expected to last no more than two weeks.
The main business of the brief post-election sitting will be voting on spending authority for about $1.4 billion to send out COVID-19 aid payments to individuals and households with income up to $125,000 a year. Speaking reporters in a video conference Nov. 24, a day after being elected interim leader by the 28-member caucus, Bond declined so say if the B.C. Liberals will support payments of up to $1,000 for households and $500 for individuals, whether they have lost income due to the pandemic or not.
MLAs are being sworn in this week for jobs that currently pay $111,000 a year, which would make some of them eligible for the payments that were a key election promise from Horgan. With the province’s deficit already expected to be nearly $13 billion, B.C. Liberals must decide if they will vote against the measure, a formality as they face a 57-seat NDP majority.
They also will consider if they will take the money themselves, a subject Bond expects will generate “vigorous debate” in private.
“We are going to ask for specific details as the issue is presented, and I don’t think it’s something we should expect will simply be marched into the house and marched out the door,” Bond said. “When you’re talking about spending at that magnitude, let me be clear. We want to support British Columbians as well, we want to make sure that resources are provided to families and businesses that needs them, but there needs to be transparency, accountability, and that’s the kind of discussion we’ll have in the caucus room.”
On the pandemic response, Bond said the latest business restrictions announced by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s are an example of what the opposition needs to get to work on.
“We have restaurants concerned, we have churches that are concerned, we have live theatre companies that are concerned, and much of that relates to confusion,” Bond said. “This isn’t about criticism of Dr. Henry. We admire the work that she’s done, and certainly [health minister] Adrian Dix has done a capable job. Having said that, we have a role to play. I hope we can do that in a respectful but probing way, and I think you’ll see that emerge in the days ahead.”
Horgan’s cabinet is to be sworn in Nov. 26, as MLAs take their oaths of office, mostly by remote video conference. B.C. Green MLAs Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen were sworn in in person Monday, with strict limits on the number of people in attendance.