Waters: Critics here, here, everywhere

B.C. Liberal Party puts virtually all its MLAs to work in shadow cabinet

Everyone’s a critic.

Or, at least that’s the way it seems when you look at the B.C. Liberals new shadow cabinet.

Nearly all of the 43 Liberal MLAs who were elected earlier this year now have a critic’s role and the few who don’t, like former Finance Minister Mike de Jong, the party’s House leader and Linda Larson, the party’s whip, have other jobs to keep them busy in addition to their MLA responsibilities.

In the case of the Central Okanagan’s two remaining MLAs, Steve Thomson and Norm Letnick, they will pick up where they left off, just on the other side of the house. Letnick, the province’s former agriculture minister is one of two agriculture critics and Thomson, the only Liberal tapped for double duty in the shadow cabinet, is now citizen’s services critic and one of two trade critics.

His appointment to the trade critic’s role is likely because of his experience with the softwood lumber issue when he was B.C.’s forests, lands and natural resources minister.

Like past NDP Oppositions, the Liberals have doubled up when it comes to critics, naming two per ministry in most cases—a full court press to keep the new NDP government’s feet to the fire.

It should, however, come as no surprise. Thomson said when he was a minister in the last Liberal government, he had four NDP critics dogging him, all specializing in different areas of his huge ministry.

With former Kelowna West MLA and party leader Christy Clark quitting politics as of last Friday, and the B.C. Greens pledging the support of its three MLAs to keep the NDP in power, it’s clear the new Liberal critics will be in their positions for a while.

Premier John Horgan is in no rush to call a byelection in Kelowna West, a seat that is seen as a virtual lock for whoever runs for the Liberals. By holding off, he keeps the now two-seat advantage over the Liberals that Clark gave him as her going away present. That means the threat of an early provincial election has been eliminated as long as he and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver continue to play nice.

Meanwhile, Kelowna West residents find themselves without political representation—as least for the foreseeable future. Horgan has six months to call a by-election and it’s unclear in the meantime if the constituents Clark had vowed to stay on to fight for will now have to turn to Letnick or Thomson for help should they need it.

Clark’s assertion her departure will help her now former party rebuild may be true in the broad sense, but it’s not doing anything for the constituents she leaves behind.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

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