Kamloops MLAs talk COVID-19, BC Liberal Party in year-end interview

MLAs on 2020, pandemic

2020 had its highs and lows.

For the two BC Liberal MLAs representing Kamloops, Todd Stone and Peter Milobar say October's provincial election falls into the latter category. Premier John Horgan was given a majority government (57 NDP seats, up from 2017's 41 seats). The Liberals captured 28 seats (down from 2017's 43 seats) and the Greens were reduced to two. 

"Obviously, the election was a wake-up call for many members and MLAs alike," Milobar tells Castanet. "But we still have good strong numbers. Twenty-eight is still a good strong number in caucus to be in Opposition."

Stone calls the election result "disappointing" but says he's honoured to be elected for a third term. 

"It's very important to never forget who sent you to Victoria," he says.

Milobar won his Kamloops-North Thompson seat with 40.99% of the vote; the NDP's Sadie Hunter wasn't far behind. There was only a difference of 196 votes between the two. Stone earned his Kamloops-South Thompson seat with 51.14% of the vote. Finishing in second in that riding was the NDP's Anna Thomas, who received 32.60% of the ballots.

The local MLAs both agree the BC Liberals have some work to do.

For Stone, the party has to go through a "thoughtful engagement process" with its members and British Columbians in general, to understand what the party stands for, where it's heading and how it can become more relevant, especially to voters in urban areas like the Lower Mainland.

The BC Liberals will also be electing a new party leader (Andrew Wilkinson stepped down after the provincial election). Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, is the interim leader.

"Those two efforts combined represent a tremendous opportunity for renewal and a refreshing of our party, the people in the party, the positions, the policies, what we stand for. I’m really excited to engage in what will be hard work moving forward," Stone tells Castanet, noting he's mulling over running a second time for leader.

Milobar concurs.

"We’ve always been a party that tries to embrace the ideas and policies from the grassroots members, up, and that’s certainly what we’ll be embarking on again," he says.

The biggest challenge the MLAs faced this year was the pandemic; for Milobar, it was trying to connect with constituents. For obvious reasons, in-person visits were down and Zoom calls were up.

"My staff and I were all working virtually well into late summer, early fall. It was just a big adjustment for everyone, as it was for lots of businesses. It certainly was a challenge trying to make sure we were still addressing people’s issues and concerns in a timely way."

One of the highlights for Milobar was working collaboratively early on in the pandemic, to try and push out funds and supports for people. 

"That took a lot of negotiation and work to make sure things were being (done in a way) that would essentially hold up to legal challenges," he recalls. "I think the cooperation in the early days of COVID was something that we're very proud of."

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