One of B.C.'s most recognizable business and industry personalities is touring the province urging the public to compare the records of the B.C. Liberal Party and the B.C NDP.
Jim Shepard is the retired CEO of Finning and Canfor, with a lifelong passion for grassroots politics. He made it clear that he had no interest in running for office himself but was adamant about supporting those who did. He also made it clear that he was supporting Premier Christy Clark personally and the BC Liberals in general, despite a reinvigorated opposition NDP on the left wing of the political spectrum and a vocal BC Conservative Party on the political far right.
He and some other (so far undisclosed) personalities have formed a new society - the Concerned Citizens For British Columbia - he said, and they would be shining a light on those other two parties to compensate for the natural media glare on the governing party. The organization was officially launched Thursday in Prince George.
"Prince George is my first stop and there is a reason for that," he said. "It is where the 'Have You Had Enough Yet?' campaign started 13 years ago," said Shepard, recalling the provincewide citizen's effort to oust the then-governing NDP. "We are back in Prince George to re-ignite the free enterprise spirit."
British Columbia typically elects from two pools of political thinking, he said, choosing between the fairly constant agenda of the NDP and the coalition centre-right agenda. When there is division in that coalition, the NDP comes to power and, in his view, the provincial economy and general households suffer for it until the centre/right can rally together again.
The B.C. Conservatives had hopes of forming government, he said, but their support has leaked away, much of it back to the B.C. Liberals, based on conversations he was having with those previous supporters, and now the fringe party's main role in the coming election would be perhaps to split the vote and let NDP MLAs win in a few ridings, perhaps even enough to win government.
He said he had no intention of smearing the NDP, their leaders, or their slate of candidates in the coming election, only to hold them to the same standard of account that Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals were being scrutinized in the media.
He also urged voters and financial supporters to directly compare the records of the two parties.
"I'm going to step out as a private citizen and share what I've seen...I have worked with the NDP in government and with the B.C. Liberals in government, so I have an up-close view of both," he said. "Everyone can ask, are we better off after the B.C. Liberals' 10 years in government, or after the NDP's 10 years in government? I can tell you that we went from being an economic powerhouse to, under the NDP, an economic basketcase that had to accept hand-out cheques from Ottawa as a have-not province, then back to being economically back on track and prospering again even in extremely difficult times."
Shepard was moving on to the Kootenays after the campaign launch in Prince George, but he did not rule out one or more return trips to the north to continue stumping for the governing party as the election comes closer.
B.C. voters go to the polls on May 14.