Q&A with Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness on the change in government

Throness says the BC Liberals need to appeal more to urban voters, the party is united, and Clark should stay

Following last week’s defeat of the BC Liberal government after the Speech from the Throne, The Progress spoke to Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness about what transpired and what’s ahead. The following is an edited version of that interview:

What is your assessment of what happened last week?

Laurie Throness: Well, what happened is the government didn’t get it quite right. We didn’t get our platform quite right although we own almost all the rural seats we lost nine urban seats. That was a huge wake-up call to the government.

As you know, the lieutenant-governor had two choices, and the government had to act swiftly. We had brought about $100 million in new spending.

The NDP had $4 billion plus [in new spending]. Obviously their issue spoke to urban voters in ways that ours didn’t.

I counted 280 promises [in the NDP platform]. We chose about 25 of those things that we felt were compatible with our philosophy. One of the key points was tolls on the Port Mann bridge, and I felt I could support that.

Do you think we should have another election?

Throness: We have a very unstable government right now, 43 to 43 in the house, or it will be when they elect their own speaker. It is very likely there will be an election very soon. The NDP will present their budget, likely in September and there will be a confidence vote on that.

Half their members could not show up and that would cause an election.

Why would they do that?

Throness: They would like a majority as we would like a majority.

But do you think voters want an election, your party asked for one?

Throness: No I don’t think they do, absolutely not. The premier asked for an election based on the fact that the government is not stable,

How do you feel about a throne speech with so many policy shifts taken right out of the NDP platform?

Throness: They were things we were doing already that we were expanding. Like childcare, we promised 13,000 new spaces and we expanded that because we felt that is what voters wanted. As a small-c conservative, we have to gauge this. If we only appeal to rural voters, than we will not be a government. We have to satisfy urban voters in particular.

When it comes to the carbon tax, as I said, I’m not a big fan… . We are a coalition so we all have to take a little water with our wine.

Do you consider Chilliwack-Kent a rural or an urban riding?

Throness: That’s a very good question. In terms of pure population it is more urban but in terms of sentiment and feel, there is more of a rural feel so our riding has been more small-c conservative.

That will change in the future, and I think it is changing. Chilliwack is growing.

How long do you think a Horgan government will last?

Throness: Who knows. It’s anybody’s guess. It depends on how well the Greens and the NDP get along. They are diametrically opposed. They want each other to be gone. The NDP want the Greens gone and the Greens want the NDP gone so they are diametrically opposed. There are some common cause in some issue, so who knows. We don’t think it will be that long, up to a year but you never know.

What should Chilliwack-Kent voters be concerned about with an NDP-Green government?

Throness: Of course we should be concerned about fiscal responsibility. Over the past four years I’ve been in question period every day and I can count on maybe one hand or two hands the questions they ask about the economy. The NDP are all about more government spending, they are not about economic development. They oppose projects that would develop our economy. The are about shutting down projects and government spending and that is the biggest threat and has always been the biggest threat.

Now you think of all of the unions that have supported them. The unions, they are now going to be calling in their chits. It will be “we want big raises now.”

How much division is there in the BC Liberals?

Throness: I can say this: There is very strong unity among BC Liberals. We realize that, as I said, the nine seats we lost in urban areas in the Lower Mainland and on the island, was a wake-up call to us all that we had to do something.

I think Christy Clark has done a tremendous job, balanced the budget five times. She has scratched an industry out of the ground with LNG, which is now up and running, the final investment decision in Squamish has been made. Did that in four years. I think she deserves to stay and in fact I hope that she doesn’t leave.

So you think Christy Clark should stay on as leader?

Throness: I think she should, she deserves another shot and she’s a great person. I have really come to appreciate her. She is willing to admit when things don’t go well, and she is very approachable.