If there was ever the right person in the right place at the right time to start making the right kind of changes to get the B.C. Liberals back on track, it’s Shirley Bond.
But if the B.C. Liberals treat Bond as merely a seat warmer until the next leader arrives, they are squandering a huge opportunity to get started on that much-needed change.
With John Horgan’s NDP government in secure majority territory, there is no prospect of an election until 2024 at the earliest, so no rush on a leadership race. Why not wait until late spring 2021, when it should be safe to gather packed community forums and a noisy leadership convention to choose Wilkinson’s successor?
In the meantime, the B.C. Liberals should give Bond free reign to start revitalizing the party.
Interim leaders in any capacity, business or politics, private or public sector, should set the table for their eventual replacement. Regardless of whether that may be minor tweaking or wholesale change, that work by the interim leader allows their permanent replacement to get busy on the big, strategic goals right away.
Over at the City of Prince George, interim city manager Walter Babicz has made significant changes (and likely isn’t finished) since replacing Kathleen Soltis. He’s blown up the management structure, shuffled departments and streamlined processes. Whether he’s doing it for himself if he has the interim part stripped off his title next year or whether he’s doing it for his new boss, this critical work is a necessary revitalization of the local government bureaucracy.
The same applies to Bond in her new role and hopefully she will be just as bold.
Right-of-centre political parties have a historical tendency to lean on tradition over innovation, tried-and-true practice over fresh thinking, age and experience over youthful energy and longing for a glorious past instead of working towards a brighter future.
Bond needs to start reversing that trend, which has clearly taken hold of the B.C. Liberals.
She can start by putting down the rabid dogs – the members and supporters of the party who actively traffic in conspiracy theories. There should be no room in the B.C. Liberals for COVID hoaxes or anti-climate change, anti-expertise, anti-government, racist, sexist and intolerant views that foster hatred and division. That is not political correctness or stifling dissent; that is meeting a basic standard in truth, science and decency.
Bond should kick these people, locally and provincially (and they’re right there out in the open on Facebook), out of the party and tell them to go play with the B.C. Conservatives and the Christian Heritage Party where they belong. They won’t be missed.
After that, the social conservatives (who are conservatives in name only because they choose ideology and government control over individuality and personal responsibility) should be told to shut up or pack up.
Rolling back the clock on abortion, same-sex marriage, sex education in schools, transgender rights, assisted dying, cannabis legalization and Indigenous reconciliation while denying the existence of systemic racism and white supremacy throughout modern society is the path to permanent political exile in this country and especially in this province.
Any effort to do so sells only to older, rural, less educated and whiter voters, all shrinking parts of the electorate.
That’s not political correctness; that’s political calculus.
The B.C. Liberals (and Social Credit before them) have been most successful when cheerful, ambitious, hardworking pragmatism in the interests of working class taxpayers has been at the heart of the party and its politicians.
Cheerful, ambitious, hardworking pragmatism has defined Bond’s political career and it’s why even people who disagree with her politics keep voting for her in her Prince George-Valemount riding.
If she brings that ethic back, in both style and substance, to the B.C. Liberals, she’ll leave the party in much better political shape than it is now.
And if there’s anybody that can get that job done in short order, the money’s on Shirley Bond.