MLA for Kootenay East Bill Bennett has been appointed by Premier Christy Clark to the B.C. Liberals' election platform committee.
The announcement was made on May 7, but Bennett said he was informed several weeks ago that he will be teaming up with Education Minister George Abbott.
Bennett said his primary role will be to collect and sift through information coming in thanks to his fellow MLAs, and through a website launched last month to collect ideas, from constituents. Those ideas will become the Liberals' platform for the May 2013 election.
Bennett said he was chosen because of his ability to speak his mind, as he's proven by publicly announcing he does not support the B.C. carbon tax, and by standing up to former premier Gordon Campbell.
"I've always been an independent minded MLA," Bennett said. "I've always said what I thought. I don't fit very well in the Victoria political scene."
In 2010, Bennett was removed from caucus after he criticized then-premier Campbell. He told media at the time that Campbell was a bully, and "not a very nice man."
His outspoken behaviour is something Clark looked to when she was filling the election committee positions.
"She has come to appreciate what I bring to discussions in caucus," Bennett said. "A leader needs to have people who will tell her what they think."
Bennett said the party has shifted since Clark took over the leadership role, and MLAs are being given more leeway to perform their own duties and complete committee obligations in due time.
"This premier has totally left me to do my job," Bennett said. He cites his Cosmetic Pesticides Committee as an example, saying Clark has not pushed him to finish sooner, but has allowed the discussions to run their course.
"The biggest difference is that she is much more collaborative," Bennett added. "She wants ministers to be ministers."
With the committee formed, all Abbott and Bennett have to do is wait for the information to come in from other MLAs and cabinet ministers. Clark has tasked her caucus with hitting their ridings to canvass constituents to help form their election platform.
"We've asked people to tell us what they want from their government," Bennett said.
Abbott and Bennett will also be talking to experts in many sectors across the province such as scientists, economists, construction, non-profits and more.
"George and I will put all that together with people that are smarter than him and I," Bennett joked.
He's happy to be working with the education minister because of his experience and because he represents a rural riding too.
As the two committee members wait for the information to flow in, Bennett is still spending much of his time in his own riding, when not in Victoria. He said he has his finger on the pulse of what's going on, and recently spent a day this past weekend at the Fernie Rod and Gun Club speaking with constituents, among other public engagements.
"I figure I know my riding as well as any MLA in B.C.," he said. "Every day that I'm in the riding I'm talking to people. It's the way that an MLA should operate"
This coming campaign will be Bennett's fourth, after three successful elections.
The election committee has nothing to do with rumoured re-branding of the B.C. Liberals, but Bennett said should the party choose to go ahead with a name change, he wants to be a part of the decision making.
Visit www.ideaslab.ca to submit your ideas to the B.C. Liberals.