NDP’s Ronna-Rae Leonard: voters given chance to choose long-term stability

NDP’s Ronna-Rae Leonard: voters given chance to choose long-term stability

Ronna-Rae Leonard  |  2017 Decafnation file photo

NDP’s Ronna-Rae Leonard: voters given chance to choose long-term stability


Seeking her second term as the NDP MLA for the Courtenay-Comox riding, Ronna-Rae Leonard does not apologize for her party calling an Oct. 24 snap election.

Leonard says the call was necessary to solidify the NDP government’s successful record on dealing with the pandemic and creating economic stability.

“Our collaboration with the Green Party has resulted in the most ambitious climate action plan in North America,” she told Decafnation via a telephone interview. “But the fragility of a minority government is always at risk and that puts three years of forward progress at risk.”

This election, Leonard said, gives the people of British Columbia the chance to set a stable course for the province’s long-term recovery.

And she does not agree with the accusations that her party has broken its 2017 campaign promises on old growth forest logging, liquid natural gas (LNG) or to shelve the controversial Site C dam project.

The NDP sent the Site C project to an independent commission for analysis and so the public could see the facts of its status.

“That was the promise, and it was kept,” she said. “But the Liberals had pushed the project beyond the point of no return and without any transparent analysis.”

On old-growth logging, Leonard notes that public support has swung back and forth, pro and con, over many generations. But she and NDP leadership have committed to adopting the 14 recommendations contained in the report from the BC Old-Growth Strategic Review Panel, which was based on public and stakeholder consultations between November 2019 to January 2020, and released last month.

Among the key recommendations, she said are a promise to give indigenous peoples a place at the table, and the introduction of specific criteria by which to analyze old-growth logging proposals.

Likewise, on LNG, she said her party never promised to ban LNG projects in BC.

“We criticized the Liberals for their wide open, sell off BC policies, from which no prosperity was ever delivered,” she said. “We didn’t go chasing LNG, it came to us and we’ve developed five criteria that hold LNG to the highest standards in the world and that will meet our climate goals.”



The NDP has no plan to push private long-term care homeowners out of the market. Instead, Leonard says her party will focus on stricter oversight of private operators and on more training and improved working conditions for care home workers.

“What we inherited were facilities privatized to profit on the backs of employees and seniors,” she said. “We’re committed to improving the standard of care and we’re working toward that.”

Leonard noted that in the history of BC, only one care home had ever been taken over by public control. But in the last three years, the NDP government has taken over three.

And while the Liberals had promised only 70 new long-term care beds for the Comox Valley, the NDP has more than doubled that number to 150.

“Under the Liberals, long-term care was privatized, worker rights were taken away as were jobs, and wages were lowered so workers had to hold multiple part-time jobs to live,” she said. “Our promise is for more oversight, $1.4 billion to make sure every senior has a single room and more training and higher wages for workers.”

The NDP platform includes the hiring of 7,000 new health care workers, and 2,000 of those will be trained specifically for long-term care.

Leonard pointed out that since 2018, the NDP has partnered with North Island College to fund a state-of-the-art long-term care training facility in a real hospital setting at the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital building in Comox.



But Leonard would make no commitment on returning onsite clinical pathology services to Comox Valley and Campbell River hospitals.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority has eliminated clinical pathologist positions on the North Island and moved them to a private corporation of Victora doctors. Physicians and health care workers in both communities have warned of the dangers, including long wait times for biopsy results, and the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board has written to VIHA, the Premier and the Minister of Health demanding that the services be reinstated.

But Leonard called the issue “not clear cut,” and that it was a “challenge to work with different levels of authority,” referring to VIHA leadership.

“I’ve heard both sides of that issue and I don’t know the best path,” she said. “I’ll leave that to those in a position to know.”



Leonard’s election opponents have alluded to public criticisms that she has not been responsive to her constituents or to local governments on issues like clinical pathology services.

“I think this is politically motivated criticism,” she said. “I always take action whenever an issue is brought to me. I do the best I can do. I realize there are a lot of different views out there I’m here to make life better for everyone, not just the top one percent.”



Leonard hopes young voters will recognize the beneficial changes her party has brought made for post-secondary students.

Under the Liberal tuitions tripled, she said, but the NDP has brought back and expanded the student access grant program in February of 2019. Now, once again, 40,000 students per year are eligible for a $4,000 interest-free student loan.
The NDP also expanded the access grants to include students enrolled in diploma and certificate programs, while before they applied only to four-year baccalaureate degrees programs.

Leonard said the NDP also improved the grant program by raising the allowable maximum family household income, which increased the number of eligible students.



Born into a military family, Ronna-Rae Leonard grew up in the Comox Valley. She served three terms on the Courtenay City Council. She won the 2017 provincial elections, her first try at provincial office, by a slim margin over the BC Liberal Party candidate, Jim Benninger. BC Premier John Horgan appointed Leonard as the NDP Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors this year.





Decafnation encourages comments and a free exchange of ideas about our articles. Please limit your comments to fewer than 200 words. Longer comments will be removed. If you wish to submit an article for our commentary section, please send it to george@decafnation.net.








The 2020 provincial election takes place on Oct. 24.

Advance voting begins at various locations on Thursday, Oct. 15 and continues every day through Wednesday, Oct. 21. A schedule and list of polling stations are posted on the Elections BC website.

Candidates in the Courtenay-Comox riding are incumbent Ronna-Rae Leonard (NDP), Gillian Anderson (BC Greens) and Brennan Day (BC Liberals).

In the last election (2017), 66.89 percent of the riding’s 43,671 registered voters cast a ballot. The results were:

NDP Ronna-Rae Leonard received 10,886 votes or 37.36%

BC Liberal Jim Benninger — 10,697 votes or 36.72%

Green Ernie Sellentin — 5,351 votes or 18.37%

Leah McCulloch — 2,201 votes or 7.55%




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BC’s logging practices called out by Comox Valley group

BC’s logging practices called out by Comox Valley group

Photo Caption

BC’s logging practices called out by Comox Valley group


Braving a brisk, cold wind on Nov. 8, supporters of Save Our Forests Team – Comox Valley (SOFT-CV) rallied outside Claire Trevena’s office in Campbell River to protest the provincial government’s continued logging of the last stands of productive old growth on the island.

In addition to two public surveys conducted in July, the province recently commissioned a two-person panel to travel throughout BC and gather more information about residents’ attitudes regarding old growth logging.

But, according to SOFT-CV, neither panel member is an independent expert.

“They are shills who have business connections within the timber industry and are primarily interested in economic development,” Megan Ardyche, an organizer of the protest, said.

One day before the protest, Premier John Horgan was in the Comox Valley for a ceremony breaking ground on a new long-term care facility.

SOFT-CV members asked Horgan if the province had any plans to stop logging productive old growth on the island in the face of the climate crisis.

“Well, there’s a strike happening right now, so nothing’s being logged,” Horgan told a member of the group.

Monica Hofer, a member of SOFT-CV, then expressed her concerns regarding old growth logging to Horgan.

“What would you have me do?” he said. “If we don’t log, we’ll be fighting court battles with countries which we’ve signed agreements with about log exports. That’d cost millions of dollars and eat into the provincial health care budget.”

Pat Carl is a frequent contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at pat.carl0808@gmail.com



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Comox Valley marches to preserve Island’s remaining old growth forests

Comox Valley marches to preserve Island’s remaining old growth forests

Jay Van Oostdam photos

Comox Valley marches to preserve Island’s remaining old growth forests


Ninety-one-year-old Elke Bibby, with her walker in tow, thought it important enough to come in from Cumberland to join the Day of Action to Save BC Forests.

So did Tallulah Patterson, owner of Little Salmon Child Care located in Courtenay’s Puntledge Park. Seven of her charges accompanied her to the Courtenay courthouse lawn on their bikes and scooters and then marched down Courtenay’s streets to Save BC Forests.

Along the way, cut-outs of local MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard, Minister of Forestry Doug Donaldson and Premier John Horgan made their usual statements defending the provincial government’s decision to sell lots of old growth to the highest industry bidder. In a twist on the childhood game of “Simon Says,” marchers were cued to turn their backs on the politicians’ obfuscations.

When the marchers arrived at the Comox Valley Art Gallery, speakers stood between the two unity totems installed at the gallery entrance.

Galen Armstrong, with Sierra Club BC, looked out over the crowd of more than 100 marchers and commented on its age diversity.

“We need to talk to people of all ages, we need to expand our circle” so that we can stop logging companies from harvesting old growth,” he said.

Youth Environmental Action organizer, Nalan Goosen, said young people believe they are the ones being “most affected by logging old growth” since they will inherit a damaged environment.

Describing that damage was Dr. Loys Maingon, who was arrested at Clayoquot Sound in 1992 for protecting old growth. While he presented statistical and scientific information, he did it in a passionate way that stirred the crowd.

Eartha Muirhead, who is spearheading the anti-old growth logging movement with First Nations at Schmidt Creek, said that “letters and polite emails to our provincial government may no longer be enough. We may need to lay our bodies on the line to save old growth.”

Other speakers included Cumberland Councillor Vickey Brown, who told the crowd that her young son said that “there are places where people just shouldn’t be” like old growth forests.

Will Cole-Hamilton, a Courtenay City Councillor, said that logging old growth is a “destructive practice” that has led to our Island’s “scarred landscape.”

Mark de Bruijn, a local Green Party of Canada candidate, noted that “tweaking provincial regulations is no longer enough. We need a profound overhaul of the system.”

Marchers spontaneously made their own signs, like Megan Trumble. They recited poems like Lorraine’s “Stained Shoes.” They penned and sang their own songs like Joanna Finch’s “We Are One.”

“The energy” at the Day of Action “was electric,” said one participant.




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Day of Action planned to protect Island’s remaining old growth timber

Day of Action planned to protect Island’s remaining old growth timber


Comox Valley citizens will stand others across the province this week to demand that the NDP stop provincial government-sponsored clear-cutting of the little remaining old growth forest left on the Island and South Coast.

The Day of Action will take place at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, June 6, on the Courtenay Courthouse lawn.

“We need to send a strong, clear message about catastrophic clear-cutting sanctioned by our Premier, John Horgan, our Minister of Forests, Doug Donaldson; and our local MLA, Ronna-Rae Leonard. They and the NDP government in Victoria are using BC Timber Sales, an
agency that supposedly represents the people of BC, to auction off significant tracts of old growth to the highest forest industry bidder,” said a spokesperson for the event.

The group wants the provincial government needs to stop telling British Columbians that BC has enough old growth left to sustainably harvest “when the truth is that less than 10 percent of productive, valley-bottom Island old growth remains.”

“The Day of Action will call out our government and its representatives who are relentlessly abandoning old growth forests to the interests of the logging industry,” she said.



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The Week: NDP defeats ProRep, the Comox beer drought is over

The Week: NDP defeats ProRep, the Comox beer drought is over

Get the bathing suits out, the Polar Bear Swim is just around the corner  |  George Le Masurier photo

The Week: NDP defeats ProRep, the Comox beer drought is over


The NDP can breathe easy now that voters have rejected electoral reform again. Or can they? Depending on who you talk to Premier John Horgan either stacked the deck in favor of proportional representation or against it.

ProRep supporters say Horgan did little to promote electoral reform, and that he scheduled the timing of the vote to conflict with municipal elections when it would get little attention. First-past-the-post supporters say Horgan lowered the bar for approval to 50 percent-plus one, and rushed the vote before a specific version of ProRep could be chosen.

There’s truth in the complaints of both sides. The NDP showed no passion for reform. Was Ronna-Rae out knocking on doors? Did Gord Johns? It was a lacklustre campaign by a party that claimed to support ProRep.

And there’s no doubt voters were confused. ProRep supporters found themselves explaining the difference between three possible versions of reform. The basic premise of ProRep got lost in the details — that people should be represented in proportion to how they voted.

  Has there been a beer drought in Comox? Apparently. Social media channels lit up over the weekend about the grand opening of another brew pub in the town, this one on Lerwick Road. Jason and Hanna Walker opened Land and Sea Brewing Co. a week ago and their Facebook page went crazy.

There has been a long gap in Comox drinkeries since the Leeward Pub shut down and the Lorne Hotel and the Edgewater burned down. People wanting a taproom-barroom-public house experience had to travel out of town .. but, really, is Courtenay out-of-town?

So somebody flipped a switch and the “hey-Comox-needs-a-bar !” light went on. The Comox Bakery started serving beer and pizza, the Social Room opened and the Church Street Taphouse broke ground (coming next spring). Now Land and Sea has opened, soon to be followed by New Traditions Brewing Company in the Comox Mall.

And, silly us, we thought the hot market was going to be recreational pot stores.

  A couple of careless painters showed us again just how little people know about stormwater. We didn’t need the reminder.

The painters spilled latex paint at the intersection of Cumberland and Burgess roads this week, and then tried to clean up their mess by washing the paint down the nearest storm drain. They were apparently ignorant that drains lead to stormwater pipes that empty into one of Courtenay’s fish-bearing streams, probably Millard or Piercy creeks in this case.

Unfortunately, these guys aren’t alone. Decafnation readers have probably seen people pour used paint thinner, oil or some other toxic chemical into a street drain. It’s tragically all too common.

We know, it’s an extra effort to recycle this stuff, but it’s deadly to the environment.

  The draft transportation plan that caused airplane pilots and aircraft business owners to crash land in the Courtenay City Council chambers this summer has undergone a major revision.

Gone is a 21st Street bridge that would have eliminated several businesses, closed down the Courtenay Airpark by severing the runway and disrupted the K’omoks Estuary and the Kus-kus-sum restoration project.

Thank God.

The 21st Street bridge was a dumb idea and a non-starter from the get-go. But it did wake up a usually sedate Airpark Association, and turned it into an aggressive advocacy group. So, that’s a good thing.

The consultant who wrote the first report proposing the bridge, is now are telling City Council the bridge’s negative impact would exceed the benefits “by some margin.” Besides being an engineer, he’s also a master of understatement.

Instead, the new transportation plan will likely focus on methods to improve traffic flow on the roads approaching the 17th and Fifth street bridges.

  I wish the RCMP traffic division would take a tip from the Town of Comox: People driving over the speed limit? Eliminate speed limits! People disobeying a law to keep their dogs on a leash? Suspend that law!

New signage erected by the town doesn’t make the Northeast Woods trails an off-leash dog park, the signs just warn some people that some other people may not play by the rules. No doubt this reduces the town’s liability if someone decides to get litigious.

The whole unfortunate problem was created by a couple of misguided elderly vigilantes who started shooting unleashed dogs with bear spray. And they seem to have gotten off easy with only a verbal reprimand.




12,607 for First Past The Post, 55.16%

10,249 for Proportional Representation, 44.84%


Provincial results

61.3% for First Past The Post, 38.7% for Proportional Representation

42.6% of BC registered voters cast ballots