Ellis Ross, Skeena MLA. File photo

Ross is counting on Wilkinson to stick to his promise to fight for the north

Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross is counting on newly-elected BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson to live up to his commitment to pay attention to northern and rural B.C.

“Whenever I’d ask him questions, that’s what he’d come back with,” said Ross who early on signed up as a supporter of Wilkinson, who represents a Vancouver riding.

Ross said he was impressed with Wilkinson’s knowledge of rural and northern B.C., something partially based on Wilkinson practicing medicine in Dease Lake years ago.

Wilkinson was chosen in the fifth ballot of leadership voting Feb. 3, defeating high profile candidates such as former BC Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong and former Surrey mayor and MP Diane Watts.

Ross noted that Wilkinson gained a lot of support among rural and northern BC Liberal voters as balloting went on.

“And that was really the case in Skeena,” Ross said.

A BC Liberal leadership race was needed after Christy Clark resigned following the May 2017 provincial election.

Although the BC Liberals did win more seats than the NDP in that election, the NDP then formed an alliance with the Greens, gaining enough support to form a working majority in the provincial legislature.

For now, with debate underway following the release of the NDP government’s first official budget, Wilkinson won’t be changing critic portfolios already assigned to BC Liberal MLAs.

And that means Ross will continue keeping an eye on the NDP government’s LNG activities as the BC Liberal critic for LNG and petroleum resources.

“I wouldn’t want to change LNG. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past 14 years,” said Ross who supported the prospects of an LNG industry in and around Kitimat/Kitamaat Village during his time as Haisla Nation chief councillor.

Ross said he is also puzzled and disappointed that the First Nations leaders in support of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline project aren’t speaking out over the dispute between B.C. and Alberta over whether the project should go ahead.

“No one’s saying anything about the objective of this project to benefit First Nations, to alleviate some of the social problems such as unemployment,” he said of First Nations who have signed on to receive economic and other benefits based on the Trans Mountain pipeline being constructed through their respective traditional territories and reserve lands.

Alberta premier Rachel Notley last week announced a boycott of B.C. wines in response to the BC NDP government’s own announcement that it was proposing regulations to ban the increased export of oil from Alberta until it is satisfied spills can be cleaned up.

That move by the B.C. government didn’t surprise Ross, who noted that environment minister George Heyman last year said the province would use what he described as “every tool in its toolbox” to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline.

“And that’s what he’s doing. It’s just another tool in their toolbox,” Ross said.

MLA goes to Ottawa

Before the legislature went back into session Ross spent several days in Ottawa as a panelist at the 2018 Manning Conference, an annual gathering of high-powered public and political figures where key issues are discussed.

The conference was organized by the Manning Centre, founded by Preston Manning, the key figure behind the Reform Party’s rise in Western Canada in the 1990s.

Ross sat on a panel discussing the gridlock that has consumed major potential industrial projects in Canada.

And he also introduced one of the conference’s keynote speakers­ – former BC Liberal premier Christy Clark.

Speaking in advance of the conference, Ross said it would have been the first time he’s had a chance to speak to Clark since she resigned as the BC Liberal leader last year.

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