Dianne St. Jean
MLA Shirley Bond
MLA Shirley Bond

What the transition means for Prince George - Valemount constituents

The recent overturning of the re-elected Liberal party by the coalition of the NDP and Green parties and the Lieutenant Governor’s ruling to authorize it has left some constituents wondering how this change will affect them, especially since the Coalition takes an opposite stand on some of the major issues.

Northern and rural constituents in particular, such as those in the riding of Prince George-Valemount, are especially concerned, since any major shifts on already-approved and hoped for projects such as the Kinder Morgan Pipeline project will have a direct effect on the region.

In a recent interview, re-elected MLA Shirley Bond was asked some of the difficult questions on how the shift might affect her role in the Liberal party, the role of the Liberal Party now in general, and the leadership of Christy Clark.

According to Bond, while this is admittedly a change for her personally and for the Liberals, what doesn’t change is her role as elected representative for this region of the Province. If anything, she feels her advocacy on behalf of this part of the Province is probably more important now than it ever has been because there are so few rural and northern MLAs that will fit as part of the new government.

“My job will be to make sure that our concerns are heard in Victoria, just as I have done over the last 16 years,” says Bond. 

“I certainly hope there will be an interest in northern matters because their government will not physically be reflective of the needs and concerns of this part of the Province.”

Bond commented that many constituents have expressed concerns to her about things that the Liberal government worked very hard to accomplish; some of them, in fact, reflected in their recent Budget.

“One example is the enhancements to the University Hospital of Northern BC,” explains Bond. “It is a very large hospital that serves a significant geographic region. We worked incredibly hard to put in our budget the opportunity to make improvements and to ultimately expand the degree of service provided in that hospital.” 

Their job now as the Opposition, she says, will be to hold the NDP/Green Coalition to account in order to make sure that, first of all, they are aware that those commitments have been made and are financially reflected in the Budget that the Liberals brought forward.

“My job will be to monitor and advocate for our part of the province, and certainly we expect those things that have been committed, to move forward.” Bond noted the VGD project as one of those things.

“Obviously critical for me are things like the Valemount Glacier Development that took years of work by stakeholders, including First Nations, the developers, the Village of Valemount – we need to see that project continue. Thankfully all of the approvals that were necessary from a government perspective are in place, and I don't anticipate there to be issues with that, [however] my job will be to make sure that things we said we were going to do, that we hold the new government accountable for making decisions about continuing with those important northern initiatives.”

Once the NDP/Green Coalition is sworn in as the government in British Columbia, they will then appoint a Cabinet. New governments can change the portfolios and the way Ministries are put together, which often happens in a new government. Liberal leader Christy Clark as Opposition Leader will then look at those portfolios and assign Critic roles.

“I am waiting as our leader will look at what the appointments are by the new government, and then there will be a look at who is best to serve in a Critic role in terms of holding the new government accountable,” says Bond.

Premier-designate John Horgan intends to swear in his Cabinet on July 18, after which Clark will then assign members of their Opposition team to be official Critics.

“Obviously I’m interested in the economy and jobs,” says Bond, “and northern matters mean a great deal to me. Hopefully the Leader of the Opposition will take a look at my skill set and assign some jobs for me.”

And skill set she has. Bond has been a 16-year Cabinet Minister the entire time she’s been elected provincially up until now, and has the experience of handling a broad range of portfolios including Advanced Education, Education and Responsible for Early Learning and Literacy. She has also been Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Minister of Public Safety, and Minister of Justice, and also served as Deputy Premier. She was the first female Attorney General in the history of British Columbia without being a lawyer (there have been very few British Columbians who have been Attorney Generals not being a lawyer). Her most recent appointments included Minister of Jobs, Tourism, Skills Training and Minister Responsible for Labour. She has had a very significant role at the Cabinet Table.

After a long-term government loses an election or is faced with a vote of non-confidence, naturally the question of leadership arises. Bond was asked to respond to those constituents of hers who are asking that question.

“I have been very fortunate to work with two Premiers - Premier Campbell and Premier Clark,” she responds.

“I have watched British Columbia regain its status in this country as the leading economy. Last month, for example, we gained almost 20,000 new jobs, and our unemployment rate dropped again.”

“Those things don’t happen by accident,” says Bond, “they happen by having a plan, by sticking to it, and by being disciplined. That’s the kind of leader Christy Clark has been for our government – focused, driven, determined to make sure that British Columbia has a strong and growing economy, and she has demonstrated that she has the ability to lead a very diverse team, to have them solidly support her, and demonstrate to the rest of the country that British Columbia is a leader.”

Clark intends to continue and lead the Opposition. 

“I know this,” says Bond, “she will be exceptional in the Legislature. She is very good in Question Period and in asking the hard questions. Our Caucus supports her solidly, in continuing that role.

“We have our work cut out for us, we have to transition to being an Opposition team. That takes having someone strong at the helm. Clark has served in Opposition before, she knows how it works, so as we move forward, our Caucus supports her continued leadership and she is going to be a very significant leader of the Opposition.”

In closing, Bond wanted to relay a very specific message to her constituents and those who supported her.

“I am deeply grateful for the continued support of the constituents of Prince George-Valemount. I had a very strong electoral win; I never take that trust for granted. I fully understand what my job is in Victoria, to take the concerns of the people who live in my riding to Victoria.

“I want to reassure my constituents that have faith in me for a fifth consecutive time that I will work as hard for them, if not harder, as a member of the Opposition as I have done for 16 years as a member of government.

“It is more important than ever that our voices be heard - the concerns of rural and northern British Columbians. We need to make sure that our voices, our concerns, our issues, are reflected in the Legislature, and that is going to be up to us who live here and were elected with very significant majorities.

“I want to reassure my constituents that I remain as focused on the issues that matter to our region. My seat may change in terms of where I will sit in the Legislature, but my heart, my passion, and my hard work on behalf of Prince George-Valemount is something I am completely committed to.”  u