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.

Just Posted

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
Watchdog: logging practices put Vancouver Island old growth, biodiversity at risk

Forest Practices Board has issues with BC Timber Sales practices in Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni

The mighty Fraser during freshet on May 2, 2021 at Island 22 Regional Park. A new B.C. coalition representing 25 organizations, and 273,000 people, is calling on B.C. to reverse decades of wildlife and habitat declines. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)
Coalition calls on B.C. to invest in wildlife stewardship and habitat protection

Representing 25 organizations, and 273,000 people, they seek to reverse decades of declines

Terry Driver as he looked around the time of the killing of Tanya Smith and the attempted murder of Misty Cockerill in Abbotsford in October 1995. No current photos are available of Driver.
‘Abbotsford Killer’ Terry Driver denied parole, deemed ‘high risk’ to re-offend

Driver murdered Tanya Smith, 16, and seriously injured Misty Cockerill, 15, in 1995

Boats in the Fraser River launched from Barrowtown and Ft. Langley on May 12 to search for the missing fisherman. (Steve Simpson)
Boats search the Fraser River for missing Abbotsford fisherman

Anyone with ‘a boat, time, or a drone’ to help bring Damian Dutrisac home was asked to help

Sasquatch Mountain is currently closed to the public for the season. (Photo/Sasquatch Mountain Resort)
COVID exposure at Sasquatch Mountain ended

Resort closed for the season

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. to use remaining AstraZeneca vaccine for 2nd doses

Health officials say the change is due to the limited availability of the vaccine

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

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Capt. Arpit Mahajan of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Snowbirds 2 - shows off his ‘Jenn Book’ dedicated to Capt. Jennifer Casey. Zoom screenshot
Homecoming for B.C.-raised Snowbirds pilot training in the province

Capt. Arpit Mahajan flies Snowbird 2 in his first year as a solo pilot with the team

Most Read