Setting up for success: Bond details plans for a ‘nimble’ leadership transition

By Shannon Waters December 16, 2021

As her year as interim leader of the BC Liberal Party draws to a close, Prince George—Valemount MLA Shirley Bond is focused on making space for the party’s next captain, who will be chosen on February 5.

“You want to make sure that whoever is elected as leader has room to make those important policy decisions and share their vision and drive that agenda,” she told BC Today in an interview.

“At the same time, making sure that there’s a cohesive team that will transition to the new leader — that’s really been my focus is making sure people can express their views, that they can work hard, that we hold the government to account and that most importantly, we are ready for that new leader to step into place.”

Whoever the party picks will need to be ready to hit the ground running — they “will be elected on a Saturday and by Tuesday, they will be in the legislature,” Bond noted.

Of the seven candidates vying to be the party’s next captain, three currently hold seats — Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, Kelowna—Mission MLA Renee Merrifield and Vancouver—Langara MLA Michael Lee. Former Liberal cabinet minister Kevin Falcon has amassed the most endorsements from sitting MLAs and has long been considered the race’s frontrunner.

That makes it likely that a member of the Opposition caucus will be asked to step aside in the new year and make way for the new leader to compete for a seat. In 2013, it was Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart who made the sacrifice for former Liberal leader Christy Clark, after she lost her Vancouver—Point Grey seat to NDP MLA David Eby. Clark first attempted to get former West Vancouver—Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan to step down but was rebuffed.

Once a seat has been vacated, the Liberal Party’s “first order of business would be making sure government moves quickly to call a byelection,” Bond said.

“We have to win a byelection to make sure they’re in the legislature, but I can assure you that if an external candidate wins, they are still going to be at the helm of our party — it will be their agenda that our members have chosen,” she added.

If it’s a seated MLA that takes the reins, “that person would simply move their office space.”

“We need to be pretty nimble after February 5, but I’m looking forward to it,” Bond said, adding she hopes “to play a role in the transition” after helming the party for “over a year at that point.”

“I hope that I will have a meaningful role, certainly continuing a significant critic role,” she added. Bond currently serves as the caucus critic on seniors services and long-term care.

Interim BC Liberal Leader Shirley Bond says whoever the party picks to lead it permanently will need to be ready to hit the ground running. (Facebook/Shirley Bond)

Bond ‘hopeful’ 2022 will bring more co-operation on urgent issues

Whatever her role ends up being in the legislature next year, Bond is hopeful 2022 will see more cross-partisan co-operation in the legislature.

“Covid gave us an opportunity to demonstrate to British Columbia that when there are significant issues that we can work together across party lines,” she said, citing the Opposition’s support for pandemic-related “public health orders despite asking hard questions about implementation.”

“We have a lot of serious issues on our plates at the moment, not the least of which is emergency response to extreme weather events,” she added. “We need to do better, and I think one of the ways we do that is by bringing all parties to the table.”

In 2021, the Liberals and the Greens found common ground on multiple issues — from pressing the province for better pandemic data and transparency to calls for all-party committees to address the toxic drug supply and the fallout from the confirmation of unmarked graves at residential schools.

The NDP government’s response to those entreaties was one of the “biggest disappointments over the past year” for Bond.

“I simply cannot understand why the government is so reluctant to look at ways that we can work together,” she said.

“The premier said to British Columbians, ‘I want to do things differently,’ and he hasn’t — he has had every opportunity,” she added.