Former Chilliwack-Kent BC Liberal MLA Barry Penner, pictured here in 2016 when he was the outgoing chair of the ICBC board of directors, said the BC Liberals have a lot of work to recover from the Oct. 24, 2020 election defeat. (Black Press File)

Former Chilliwack-Kent BC Liberal MLA Barry Penner, pictured here in 2016 when he was the outgoing chair of the ICBC board of directors, said the BC Liberals have a lot of work to recover from the Oct. 24, 2020 election defeat. (Black Press File)

BC VOTES 2020: Former Chilliwack-Kent MLA Barry Penner opines on BC Liberal future

‘There isn’t enough room on the political spectrum … for two free-enterprise parties’

Saturday’s provincial election once again confirmed that there is only room for one centre-right political party in British Columbia, at least for those who don’t want an NDP government.

That’s according to former BC Liberal Chilliwack-Kent MLA Barry Penner who compared the preliminary result in Chilliwack to the 2012 byelection won by the NDP beating out the BC Liberal and the BC Conservatives finishing third.

• LOOK BACK: Penner resigns to join law firm – November 2011

• LOOK BACK: NDP all smiles as O’Mahony wins – April 2012

Both in 2012 and in the 2020 election, the combined BC Liberal and BC Conservative vote totals were greater than the number the NDP received. In the Chilliwack riding, before mail-in ballots have been counted, Dan Coulter of the NDP leads with 4,575 votes over incumbent John Martin with 3,512 votes. BC Conservative candidate Diane Janzen finished third with 2,190.

“With the BC Conservatives landing in third place in both the 2012 byelection and this year’s general election, this seems to confirm the long-held view (since the 1950s) that there isn’t enough room on the political spectrum under the ‘first-past-the-post’ electoral system for two free-enterprise parties to compete against each other without electing the NDP,” Penner said.

In his old riding of Chilliwack-Kent, Penner pointed to the possibility that either the NDP’s Kelli Paddon or Laurie Throness (who was on the ballot as a BC Liberal but has resigned form the party) could still win given how close the margin is with thousands of mail-in ballots to be counted. After Election Day, Paddon sits with 5,199 votes to Throness’s 5,004.

• READ MORE: BC VOTES 2020: An unexpected orange wave hits Chilliwack and Agassiz

“These will be anxious days over the next few weeks and I feel for the candidates…the suspense is something I am sure they could do without.”

As for the future of the BC Liberals, Penner says Wilkinson should stay on until results are finalized, but even then he suggested this is not the time for a leadership race.

“Running as a leader of a provincial party is no small task,” Penner said. “Andrew Wilkinson gave it his best shot. Like life, politics doesn’t always turn out the way you hope it will.

“It would be best for the BC Liberal Party not to rush head-long into another leadership race. For one thing, there is a pandemic…. [I]t would make sense for elected MLAs to select an interim leader once all the ballots are counted, and then conduct a review of the current rules for running a leadership. For example, it would be worth considering whether the current 100 point system for each riding, regardless of the number of members in those ridings, is the best way of reflecting the will of the members. This could provide one or two years of stability where the focus is on fixing the party rather than arguing about who should lead it.”

Penner, who served 16 years as MLA in Chilliwack-Hope and Chilliwack-Kent serving in a number of roles including Attorney General and Environment Minister, added that restoring public confidence and rebuilding the BC Liberal brand will require a huge effort.

“British Columbia will have a large fiscal hangover to deal with in coming years as a result of unprecedented deficit spending. While predicting the future is always a risky undertaking, there’s a good chance this will be a dominant issue for the next election – along with who has the willingness and skill to put B.C. on a solid footing following the pandemic to sustain funding of healthcare, education, environmental and other social priorities.”

On specifics, and related to Chilliwack-Kent, Jas Johal, who was the BC Liberal member for Richmond-Queensborough until his defeat in Saturday’s election, said the party needs to do more to support the diversity and rights of LGBTQ people and others.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Johal pointed directly to Laurie Throness who was ousted from the BC Liberals after the latest in a string of comments leader Andrew Wilkinson said were unacceptable.

“When you think you can convert somebody who is gay to a heterosexual life, I think that’s absurd,” Johal said, referring to former Throness who placed advertisements in a magazine supporting conversion therapy.

• READ MORE: Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

“So in 2020, B.C. voters inflicted renewal on the party and that’s what you’re seeing now,” he said. “When you lose the amount of seats that we did in what was once solid B.C. Liberal territory, it’s a wake-up call. To be very blunt, B.C. voters took us to the back of the barn and gave us a thumping.”

– with files from The Canadian Press


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@TheProgress
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

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

Just Posted

The Small Works display features work from local artists on wood panels. Panels are available at Ranger Station Art Gallery (File Photo)
Small Works submission deadline approaching

Ranger Station Art Gallery seeks local artists for upcoming display

Signs up at Hope Secondary School inform visitors that the school is a closed campus during the coronavirus pandemic. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Second COVID-19 exposure at Hope Secondary School

Fraser Health website lists exposure on Nov. 11 and 12

New Chilliwack Chief Ray Fust.
Chilliwack Chief Ray Fust in the mix for Swiss U20 roster spot

Fust is hoping to make the team that will compete in the World Junior Hockey Championships

An employee at a Chilliwack McDonald’s location tested positive for COVID on Nov. 21 (File photo by The Associated Press)
Employee tests positive for COVID-19 at McDonald’s restaurant in Chilliwack

One case was detected at the Vedder Road location, which briefly closed its doors

Contributed graphic/District of Kent
Snow Angels seek volunteers

As winter is coming, volunteer shovelers are wanted

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

More than 70 anglers participated in the bar-fishing demonstration fishery on Sept. 9, 2020 on the Fraser River near Chilliwack. DFO officers ticketed six people and seized four rods. A court date is set for Dec. 1, 2020. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Anglers ticketed in Fraser River demonstration fishery heading to court

Sportfishing groups started a GoFundMe with almost $20K so far for legal defence of six anglers

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Care home staff are diligent about wearing personal protective equipment when they are in contact with residents, but less so when they interact with other staff members, B.C. Seniors Advocate says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
More COVID-19 testing needed for senior home staff, B.C.’s advocate says

Employees mingling spotted as virus conductor in many workplaces

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Most Read