The Elk Valley’s local MLA, Tom Shypitka has been re-appointed as the official opposition critic for energy and mines, with additional responsibility as the opposition critic for petroleum resources.
Speaking with The Free Press, Shypitka also revealed that he would be running for re-election as the B.C. Liberals’ candidate for Kootenay East come the next election – whenever it may be – and shared thoughts on the growing speculation that B.C. could be going to a fall election.
On his re-appointment, Shypitka said it was important to keep “the pillars for our economy upright,” being mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Given that the Elk Valley is home to four major coal mines, Shypitka said that the folks of Kootenay East know the importance of keeping those pillars upright “more than anyone in the province.”
Shypitka, whose background in is business and tourism said that he had learned a lot in his role as opposition critic for mines given the importance of the industry for the Kootenay East riding, and that he was originally given the portfolio because of the importance of mining to the Elk Valley.
“In the last four years I’ve learned to embrace the community that makes up mining, and I’ve fallen in love with the portfolio and was really happy to be re-named the opposition critic.”
With the Horgan government currently leading in opinion polls, Shypitka said that speculation there British Columbians could be voting in coming months was “troubling” given the political parties in Victoria had come together to be bi-partisan in their response to the pandemic.
“It’s really concerning for me that the government would regard this as an opportune time to call an election based on the hard work of our economy and our businesses. Some of them are failing.
“It’s not very palatable for me to understand why the government would call an election now – other than the fact that they look good in the polls.”
That said, he added that he believed the B.C. Liberals were ready.
“You’re never as ready as you want to be, but we’ve done our ground work.”
Responding to questions on ongoing anxiety over the provincial governments response to the pandemic, Shypitka commended the work of the Provincial Health Officer, Dr Bonnie Henry, but said that the economic side of the response was failing – and that was the governments fault.
“We need to work on the balance of protecting people on a personal level and also on an economic level. We’ve seen the fallout from our economic health going down,” he said, explaining that mental health issues had spiked as a result of the economic stop. “It’s important to stay on top of health of the COVID-side, but we have to remember there’s another part of this.
“I think government is lacking on the economic side and protecting our businesses.”
Shypitka said there was a need for more regional input on how the pandemic was handled, given much of the decision-making was made based on what was happening in the lower mainland and conditions were much different in the rest of the province.
“If you want to politicise it, that’s where the vote comes from for the current government. They really have no presence in rural B.C.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and I think unfortunately that’s the way COVID’s been handled.”
According to recent polling, 48 percent of British Columbians surveyed would vote for the NDP, while the 30 percent would vote for the B.C. Liberals. Another 14 percent nominated the B.C. Greens as their party of choice.
The next provincial election is scheduled to be held on or before Oct. 16, 2021 – more than 12 months away.
The current NDP government has 41 seats in parliament, with a confidence and supply agreement with the B.C. Greens. The B.C. Liberals have 41 seats currently.
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