PRINCE RUPERT -- Former Prince Rupert mayor Herb Pond is running as a BC Liberal in the North Coast constituency, where he is distancing himself from the government’s record under Christy Clark and instead stressing his ability to be an independent voice.
“This is our third outing,” Pond said at an all candidates event at the Lester Centre of the Arts on Monday. “I always keep looking around for Christy. She’s not in the room.”
Of course Clark is herself running for re-election as an MLA in Kelowna West while conducting a province-wide campaign to support the rest of the 87 candidates on the BC Liberal slate. If enough of that slate wins, whether with her help or in spite of her, she’ll return as premier.
In North Coast, incumbent MLA Jennifer Rice is running again for the NDP after one term in office, and college instructor Hondo Arendt is running for the Green Party. That allows Pond to say, “There will be three names on the ballot. If you’re looking for Christy’s name you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’ll be Jennifer, my own and Hondo.”
It was a theme Pond launched in his opening remarks by saying that as mayor he had wanted an MLA for the area who could work across party lines to advocate for the community and work to attract new industries.
“Our biggest challenge isn’t each other,” he said at one point. “Our biggest challenge is being understood by that large urban block that lives in the Lower Mainland and now makes most of the decisions that affect our lives.”
During the debate, the audience put forth questions that could be “voted up” via mobile device. Topics covered included the liquefied natural gas industry, disability care, seniors, log exports, fisheries jobs and housing affordability.
Pond also made it clear that he had limited interest in accounting for what the BC Liberals have done during 16 years in power. “I really don’t see it as my job to defend a government,” he said.
And in his closing remarks he said, “I want to remind you that Christy Clark is not on the ballot... There will be three names, our three names, on the ballot, and you need to choose which one of us is best suited to represent you into whoever forms the next government.”
In an interview following the event, Pond denied he was distancing himself from Clark and the government’s record.
“I make no bones about it,” he said. “I chose the BC Liberal banner to run under because I have a strong affinity for the good work they’ve done in creating jobs... I think I’ll have the most success by linking to what they’re doing.”
The NDP’s Rice said there’s no question the BC Liberal brand is a problem for Pond’s campaign.
“We know that Christy Clark is hugely unpopular,” she said. “We also know the policies that the BC Liberal Party promotes run counter to the needs of communities here in the northwest, so if I was Herb Pond, I’d distance myself too.”
If Pond wants to be a strong independent voice for the region, he should run as an independent candidate, not as a BC Liberal, she said.
Rice said voters need to understand a vote for Pond is a vote for the BC Liberals. “He’s handing out pins that say ‘I’m with Herb,’ but what people need to realize is if they’re with Herb they’re with Christy Clark.”