B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said just because his party backs the provincial health officer’s pandemic restrictions doesn’t mean the Opposition will co-operate with the NDP when the legislature resumes sitting on June 22. Wilkinson answers questions from the media following the speech from the throne in the legislative assembly in Victoria, Tuesday, February 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Politics as normal suspended in B.C., but will that change when house returns?

Wilkinson said support for Dr. Bonnie Henry necessary, but Liberals want the economy to recover quickly

British Columbia’s Opposition leader says fighting the pandemic produced a unified health front among traditional adversaries, but with the province facing its darkest economic crisis in decades, political battle lines must go beyond working together to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said just because his party backs the provincial health officer’s pandemic restrictions doesn’t mean the Opposition will co-operate with the NDP when the legislature resumes sitting on June 22.

“We’re all waiting to see what the NDP come up with and it better be good because we have an economy that is flat on its back right now,” Wilkinson said in an interview.

“We have to all wonder about the NDP’s assumptions of revenue given that we know the economy has slowed dramatically on the greatest recession in B.C. history and that more than half a million people have either left the workforce or are unemployed.”

But Wilkinson’s plans to hold the government to account could be met with indifference as political debate remains completely focused on the fight against COVID-19, say political experts.

“In a once-in-a-century crisis of this nature, politics as normal is suspended in the name of public health,” said Prof. David Black, a political communications expert at Victoria’s Royal Roads University.

Pollster Shachi Kurl of the non-profit Angus Reid Institute said recent data shows incumbent governments across Canada are receiving solid approval ratings for their approaches to the pandemic, including B.C.’s Premier John Horgan.

“This is a difficult time for any opposition leader,” Kurl said.

ALSO READ: Canadian expert says he is confident COVID-19 vaccine is months, not years away

Horgan recently thanked the Liberals and Greens for their co-operation on the pandemic response, but he also said he expects partisanship to return.

“Although I’d like it to continue on as long as possible, I’ll understand if a partisan rock or two are thrown in the weeks ahead,” he added.

Wilkinson said the support for health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been necessary, but the Liberals want the economy to recover quickly.

They are pressing the minority government to cut the seven per cent provincial sales tax to zero for three months to spur consumer confidence and business investment, Wilkinson said. The government must also target the decimated tourism and small business sectors with tax cuts and investments, he said.

“When the federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit runs out, we will have a society in deep distress,” Wilkinson said. “We’re looking for bold economic decisions and actions from the NDP.”

Black said he expects the Liberals to propose tax reductions and red-tape cuts, but the pandemic is an opportunity for the party to look ahead to the October 2021 election.

“The question I would put to Andrew Wilkinson is, ‘How do you position yourself in that debate about a post-pandemic B.C.?’ ” said Black. “Who are we on the other side of this?”

Kurl said the Angus Reid polling data released June 8 found provincial governments in New Brunswick, B.C., and Newfoundland and Labrador received the highest number of residents approving their responses to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“As long as the personal proximity and concern, both on the health front and the economic front related to COVID-19 continue, it will be difficult for any opposition leader, regardless of what province or where on the ideological spectrum, to pick up a lot of traction,” Kurl said.

ALSO READ: Dispose of your face masks safely, top doctor urges Canadians

Wilkinson said B.C. needs an Opposition totally focused on the province’s economic recovery and not one worrying about the next election.

“Now it’s time for the NDP to show what they can do to get B.C. back to work and the expectations are high, and we will be holding them to account,” he said.

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said in an interview that co-operation from the Liberals will not prevent Wilkinson and his colleagues from being vocal critics in the legislature.

“I fully expect that there will be vigorous debate, pertinent debate on the legislation that we’ll be bringing forward,” he said.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Vehicle found “burnt to a crisp” off of Hwy 5

Update from Clearwater RCMP detachment

One day, your way

Information about this year’s Terry Fox (virtual) Run

Two residents remember fundraising for Terry Fox

This year marks 40 years since Terry Fox first embarked from St.… Continue reading

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Most Read