Kelowna-Lake Country Liberal MLA Norm Letnick. Photo: Capital News files

Liberal MLA questions B.C.’s new rural political party, NDP ties

Proportional representation may draw out more fringe political parties

An Okanagan MLA is drawing a connection between a new provincial political party geared to rural voters being unveiled last week and the pending referendum on proportional representation.

Norm Letnick, Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country, says while he welcomes the new Rural B.C. Party into the political fray, he questions what another party brings to the debate that the more than 20 existing political entities don’t already cover.

“I think if proportional representation passes, you will see many more parties like this start up and we believe that is going to reduce local representation for constituents. You won’t be electing an MLA, but rather one will be appointed for your area,” Letnick said.

“Compared to current first to the post system, that reduces the current level of accountability. Depending on what form of proportional representation might potentially be adopted, you end up with an MLA you didn’t even vote for by a majority in your area.”

Letnick said while he waits to see the B.C. Rural Party’s policy platform outlined in greater detail, he noted that both the party’s leader, Houston municipal councillor Jonathan Van Barneveld, and executive core team member Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen, currently on medical leave from his civic duties, have provincial NDP connections.

Letnick pointed out Van Barneveld is a past president of the NDP provincial youth wing of the party, while Regen was an active supporter of Premier John Horgan’s election campaign.

“I’m not sure what that says, but if they are disgruntled with the NDP, I would encourage them to join the Liberals,” Letnick said.

Related: New B.C. party looks to represent rural voters

The B.C. Rural Party advocates for greater economic diversification opportunities for smaller rural communities in B.C. and reduce a reliance on mounting infrastructure debts.

The party gained official electoral status in February and hopes to field candidates in 23 ridings including Vernon-Monashee and Boundary-Similkameen within the Okanagan in the next provincial election. All their candidates would run in constituencies outside the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria regions.

Letnick doesn’t see rural B.C. taxpayers losing out to the interests of the higher populated areas of B.C. because their MLAs must strive to bring economic and cultural benefits to their constituencies.

“If they don’t do that, voters have the opportunity to give the job to someone else. When you are elected, you are the representative for all constituents in your riding, not just the people who voted for you.”

Enderby Mayor Greg McCune said he’s not sure how the B.C. Rural Party would benefit his community.

“I have not really heard much about them,” said McCune, contacted at this week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler.

“You can analyze the urban-rural split to death, but key for me is that our provincial representation is from our area and not someone appointed from another area who we don’t know.”

Like Letnick, he too made the connection of a new party as perhaps a sign of things to come should the proportional representation referendum pass.

“I think when it comes to taxpayer dollars being spent, a lot of the taxes they pay in the Lower Mainland end up contributing to transportation and other infrastructure projects that benefit our rural communities, so there is a give and take there in where the influence lies.”

Get ready for B.C. electoral reform referendum

Elections BC is encouraging eligible voters to get ready for the 2018 referendum on electoral reform by registering to vote or updating their voter information.

“If your voter information is current, you will get a referendum voting package in the mail this fall,” said Anton Boegman, BC Chief Electoral Officer.

Voters can register or update their voter information online at www.elections.bc.ca/ovr or by calling 1-800-661-8683 on Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Between now and the end of September, a Referendum Information Card will be mailed to every household in the province to raise awareness of the referendum. Referendum voting packages will be distributed between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2.

For more information, visit www.elections.bc.ca/referendum.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Homeowners keep fire at bay in Oyama garage

Fire crews are reportedly on scene of a structure fire on Broadwater Road

Comedians to share laughs to help Kelowna school

Fundraiser begins effort to replace $20,000 stolen from South Rutland Elementary PAC

Rockets’ Erik Gardiner retires from hockey

Gardiner steps away from hockey for health and personal reasons.

Peachland’s doctors moving out of the district

All the doctors at Beach Avenue Medical Centre are leaving

Reaction from Costco shoppers on potential move to West Kelowna

Rumors have been heard that the Kelowna store may move to West Kelowna

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Thieves steal thousands from 140 Coast Capital Savings members

Online fraud tactics included phising and ‘brute force’ in November and December

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Truck hauling compressed gas for ‘virtual pipeline’ crashes on B.C. highway

Driver charged and highway closed for nine hours - containers did not rupture

Most Read