The B.C. Liberal opposition has selected its critics to respond to Premier John Horgan’s new majority government, with interim leader Shirley Bond taking on a new role of seniors and long-term care.
Bond said Monday the 28-member official opposition is taking a team approach to the COVID-19 crisis, and will share the load with rookie Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifeld, who takes on the role of health critic. Former health critic Norm Letnick (Kelowna-Lake Country) becomes assistant deputy speaker.
“It’s about leading by example,” Bond said of her own role in releasing the lineup Nov. 30. “It’s about the incredibly hard work that all of our critics will have to do, and I think it sends a signal about how important we think those issues are.”
Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier is the new finance critic as incoming Finance Minister Selina Robinson prepares a budget to deal with the huge demands and deficits of the pandemic. Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart replaces Bernier as education critic, as schools have their own struggles with carrying on while controlling the spread of coronavirus infection.
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross takes over as environment and climate change critic, and Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka is the critic for energy and mines as B.C. carries on pipeline construction and continuing greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee has a key critic role for transportation and infrastructure. B.C. is moving to the final stages of the Kicking Horse Pass portion of the Trans-Canada Highway, with that and other sections subject to the NDP government’s union-restricted contracts. Horgan has told the new transportation minister, Rob Fleming, that that public construction model is to be used in future projects, as B.C. and Canada expect big infrastructure works to help the economy recover in the coming years.
Lee was one of the candidates who ran against Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson for the leadership after Christy Clark resigned in 2017. The other contenders include Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong, who becomes attorney general critic, and Kamloops South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, critic for jobs, economic recovery and innovation.
Wilkinson is not assigned a specific portfolio. Bond said he has agreed to use his extensive experience as a minister and deputy minister to “support multiple critic roles” as the opposition takes on a 57-member NDP government caucus. A brief session is scheduled to start Dec. 7.
The full list of B.C. Liberal critics:
Advanced Education, Skills Training and Sport – Coralee Oakes
Agriculture and Food – Ian Paton
Attorney General – Mike de Jong
Citizens’ Services – Bruce Banman
Children, Family Development and Child Care – Karin Kirkpatrick
Columbia Basin Initiatives – Doug Clovechok
Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation – Tom Shypitka
Education – Jackie Tegart
Environment and Climate Change Strategy – Ellis Ross
Finance – Mike Bernier
Fisheries, Aquaculture and BC Ferries – Jordan Sturdy
Forests, Lands, & Natural Resources – John Rustad
Gender Equity, Accessibility & Inclusion – Stephanie Cadieux
Health – Renee Merrifield
Housing – Ben Stewart
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation – Peter Milobar
Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation – Todd Stone
Labour – Greg Kyllo
Mental Health and Addictions – Trevor Halford
Municipal Affairs – Dan Ashton
Public Safety and Solicitor General – Mike Morris
Rural Development – Lorne Doerksen
Seniors Services & Long Term Care – Shirley Bond
Social Development and Poverty Reduction – Dan Davies
Tourism, Arts and Culture, and Anti-Racism Initiatives – Teresa Wat
Transportation, Infrastructure and TransLink – Michael Lee