Incumbent MLA Tom Shypitka is contesting Kootenay East for the BC Liberals. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Shypitka named opposition critic for Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation

The Kootenay East MLA has held the energy and mines portfolio since 2017

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka has been named the opposition critic for Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation in the team led by interim BC Liberal leader Shirley Bond, who was named as party leader on Nov. 23.

Shypitka has previously served as the critic for Energy and Mines, before being given the additional responsibility of Petroleum Resources right before the October election.

He has now served as opposition critic for energy and mines since he was first elected to the BC legislature in 2017, and said he was honoured to be keeping the role.

“This is probably one of my proudest moments, retaining this role as energy and mines critic,” he said.

Shypitka said the portfolio represented a big challenge in balancing two different sides of such a major focus – being high-carbon industries like energy and mines, and low carbon initiatives.

“It’s really a full complement of things that I’m going to need to look at, because how do you balance that,” he said.

“On one side I’m going to be talking about bringing industry back online, I’ll be talking about things like the site C project, trans mountain oil, LNG, mining – those are traditionally high in carbon output – but on the other hand I have to talk about how we do that responsibly and lower those emissions.”

The ‘Low Carbon Innovation’ side of the portfolio covered CleanBC issues, said Shypitka, which includes electric vehicle initiatives, residential energy efficiency and more on top of industry initiatives in the energy and mining sectors.

Shypitka said that he was well up for the challenge of walking the line between high carbon and low carbon sectors of the economy.

“I’ve been saying this kind of stuff for the last three or four years. – Canada, and British Columbia in particular is a world leader in innovation in reducing our carbon footprint.

“BC right now leads the world. We’re at about 95-98 percent green right now with our energy production – most of that coming from hydro. We’re already there, we’re doing it. We’re just getting better and better, and industry’s going to lead the way.”

He explained further that given BC was a low-carbon economy already, it was important for the province to sell itself as such, and ensure low-carbon resources mined here could reach customers around the world.

“We’ll be looking at getting other countries across the planet on to our low carbon products. If we can’t do it here in BC, who else is going to do it when we’re already leading the way.”

He gave local major employer Teck a shout-out, noting its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

“When we’ve got great partners like Teck in our area, it makes my job that much easier.”

Shypitka said that BC could take credit for the work that it was doing to be a low-carbon economy.

“We can take the guard down a little bit and not be so hard on ourselves. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a little more credit. The credit is due and we’re doing fantastic. Is the job over yet? No of course not. We’ll always strive to be bigger and better, but let’s look at it holistically across the planet on how we’re doing.”

Shypitka will be working as part of the 28-member BC Liberal caucus heading in to the next parliament. Doug Clovechok, the MLA of the neighbouring riding, Columbia River-Revelstoke, was given the Columbia Basin Initiatives portfolio, as well as being named the caucus whip for the party.

READ MORE: Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals
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