The BC Liberals unveiled their shadow cabinet team on Thursday, and Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka was named as the critic for Energy and Mines.
It’s a familiar portfolio for an MLA from Kootenay East, given that Shypitka’s predecessor, Bill Bennett, was the Minister of Energy and Mines for four years before retiring from provincial politics.
BC Liberal leader Rich Coleman had polled his party MLAs to see who wanted to take on the various critic posts.
“My first choice was small business and liquor review, something I’ve been doing my entire adult life,” said Shypitka, referencing his previous career in the hospitality industry, “and my second choice was energy and mines, given its importance to our region.”
The NDP will be driving the bus on government policy, however, Shypitka hopes to stand up for the industry by cutting red tape and advocating for innovation.
“First and foremost, with a file like energy and mines is red tape,” Shypitka said. “Making sure processes are clear and clean and not overly bureaucratic, making sure they have a clear picture of how to move applications and permitting forward smoothly.
“That kind of thing drives businesses nuts, so I’m going to be there holding the government accountable whenever there is a roadblock for those types of processes.”
Additionally, there should be opportunities to explore and expand the mining base in the region, Shypitka said.
“Mining is one of the things where we have an competitive advantage with the rest of the province, the country, and the world for that matter, and I want to make sure those competitive advantages are always there for us to work on,” he said.
Shypitka says five of the top six mines in the province are from the Elk Valley, and that all the regional mines contribute roughly four per cent of the provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Geographically, Shypitka’s appointment is convenient considering that Michelle Mungall, the Minister of Energy and Mines, is right next door over in the Kootenay West riding.
Even though Shypitka is on the other side of the aisle, he wants to work with the NDP to ensure the best outcomes for the industry.
“I want to try to work together with the ministry as much as I can,” he said. “Whatever is best for the constituents here is good for me, so whether it comes from government or the opposition, I’m fine with it. Whatever makes our constituents happy is going to make me happy, so I don’t want to get hung up with who did what or how they did it, I just want to make sure it gets done.”
Up in Columbia River – Revelstoke, MLA Doug Clovechok was named critic for Tourism, Arts and Culture, who will share critic duties with Michelle Stilwell, who previously served in the Liberal cabinet as Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation and Parliamentary Secretary for Healthy Living and Seniors.