Keith Baldrey: young B.C. MLAs step into the spotlight with ride hailing on people’s minds

At left, BC NDP MLA Bowinn Ma. At right, BC NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon. CP/Facebook

Some of the newer faces in B.C. politics emerged last week. You should get used to seeing and hearing from them for some time yet.

Rookie MLAs such as Ravi Kahlon, Bowinn Ma and Rachna Singh from the NDP and Peter Milobar and Jas Johal of the B.C. Liberals found themselves in the limelight outside of the legislature, and they made the most of things.

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They inserted themselves into the news cycle for a couple of days because they belong to a legislative committee that suddenly found itself dealing with ride hailing, an issue that is garnering immense public interest.

There has been a long-running joke that B.C.’s legislative committees are called “standing” committees because they rarely actually “sit,” or meet.

This particular one is the Crown corporations committee, which hasn’t sat for years. But it’s meeting now and it generated a fair amount of media coverage last week.

Then-NDP candidate Ravi Kahlon listens as John Horgan speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., on Monday May 8, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The committee will produce a report on how to move forward with ride hailing by the end of next month, at which time I assume its members will be thrust into the public eye again.

This means the aforementioned MLAs will carve out a public profile not usually afforded to government backbenchers or rookie Opposition members.

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And this a good thing, because not only does it show renewal (to varying degrees) for both parties, but it also highlights the emerging diversity that both parties need to embrace.

Then-BC NDP candidate Bowinn Ma listens as John Horgan speaks during a campaign stop at a Persian restaurant in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday May 3, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Four of the MLAs are of South Asian descent, while two of them are under 40 (another committee member, the NDP’s Spencer Chandra-Herbert, is 35).

As I’ve noted here before, the NDP is further ahead of the BC Liberals when it comes to diversity and renewal.

READ MORE: Uber, taxi industry make their case as ride hailing meetings begin in Vancouver

In fact, it is interesting to contrast the new faces emerging at the ride hailing committee with what’s happening in the BC Liberal leadership race.

This past weekend, interim party leader and 22-year MLA Rich Coleman endorsed 24-year MLA Mike de Jong.

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In a video, Coleman said he had worked with de Jong for more than 20 years, a reference to the past that illustrates why “renewal” is an issue for some party members.

Gavin Dew, a youngish party activist who is backing candidate Michael Lee, took issue with Coleman’s move in a Facebook post that sparked debate among party members.

“I have a ton of respect for Rich Coleman, as do we all,” Dew wrote.


But as the Liberals grapple internally over the issue of renewal, the NDP seems more confident about it.

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Which means you can expect newcomers like Kahlon, Ma, Singh and others to continue to be given high-profile assignments in the years ahead.

And even if the BC Liberals opt to pick a candidate who is a veteran like de Jong, or a party outsider like Dianne Watts, or a younger option such as Todd Stone, or a new face like Michael Lee, I would still expect Johal, Milobar and other rookie Liberal MLAs like Tracy Readies to be given greater responsibilities after a party leader is chosen on Feb. 3.

Ride hailing is one issue, but there will be plenty more opportunities for the rookies to shine.

  • Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC

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