The Kootenay East MLA has made his decision on who he is backing to lead his party into the next provincial election.
On Monday, Nov. 8, Tom Shypitka publicly endorsed Ellis Ross as his candidate of choice for the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party, at an event at the Heritage Inn in Cranbrook, with the man himself in attendance.
Ellis Ross, the MLA for Skeena, is Shypitka’s contemporary, having won entry to the B.C. Leglslature in the 2017 election. Shypitka and his team consulted with and interviewed all the prospective candidates to replace Andrew Wilkinson as leader, before endorsing Ross, one of the first MLAs to do so.
“I’m a grassroots guy … I see a lot of that in Ellis — he’s a grassroots ground level guy, and he understands real people,” Shypitka said.
“There are no bad candidates we have in the B.C. Liberal Party leadership campaign we have going on right now. But Ellis is original. He’s authentic. He’s going to make some mistakes, but I think that’s refreshing. His genuineness, his authenticity, will reflect the people that he listens to every day.
“He’s a clean slate, and I think that’s what British Columbia needs.”
Ross is one of six official candidates seeking to take the helm of the party — the name of which will likely be changed following the election of a new leader and party convention in February, 2022.
The other candidates are Gavin Dew, Kevin Falcon, Michael Lee, Val Litwin and Renee Merrifield.
Prior to his election to the legislature, Ross was the Chief Councillor for the Haisla Nation. In 2006, he signed a $50 million agreement with Kitimat LNG to build a liquid natural gas plant on one of the Haisla Nation reserves. Ross also did survey work for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, then went into business with his brother doing hand logging and salvage log beachcombing. He also ran a charter boat. He was inducted into the Order of British Columbia in 2014.
In remarks to the crowd at the Heritage Inn, Ross spoke of how he wants to bring the grassroots back to B.C. politics, and the tour he is currently on is part of that.
“I’m not here to tell you what’s good for Cranbrook, I’m here for you to tell me,” he said.
Ross spoke of how the B.C. Liberal party needs to change, that what worked for the party in 2001 is not relevant in 2021.
“We got to ask ourselves, who can beat the NDP in 2024? Is it going to be the same old formula? The demographics [of B.C.] are changing. The issues are different than 2001, and we have to respond differently as B.C. Liberals.”
Ross also said that B.C. Liberals have “nothing to be ashamed of.” When it was in power, the party build a good foundation for the province, in terms of environmental, economic and social politics that turned B.C. from a “have-not province to a ‘have’ province.’
“The only way [British Columbia] can get back on track is with a party that knows how to build a strong province — and that’s the B.C. Liberals.
“But we’ve got to get back to the grassroots,” Ross said.
Ross took questions from the audience following his remarks. He was asked what set him aside from the other candidates.
“It’s one thing to say I’m different, but the other thing is, you can’t brand me. I come from a background of strong environmental values, that I’ve never given up … I’m not elitist. You can’t call me that because I come from a reserve. I come from a very poor background.
“On top of that, I come from a background of very strong social values. Those people who need help again — I can help them.
“I have a narrative I’ve developed over the last 15 years, I’ve never strayed from it. And I don’t apologize for that. Because the amount of people who have benefitted from this strategy are doing so well. I’m talking about single moms, young men that needed a chance, middle aged people that wanted a second shot at life.
“I’m not going to make outrageous promises just to get a vote. I didn’t do it before, I’m not going to do it now. But I will promise you that — like what me and Tom do every day in the Legislature — we’re going to work hard. We work hard at what we do, and this is a commitment I make to voters all across B.C.”
Ross said he would be a principled leader.
“I want results. I demand results. Not just for me but for the people around me.”
The B.C. Liberal leadership election is set for February 5, 2022.