Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross with wife Tracey on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (File photo)

Skeena MLA to run for BC Liberal Party leadership

Ellis Ross was first elected in 2017 and then re-elected in the Oct. 2020 general election

Skeena Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Ellis Ross has confirmed he’s in the running to be the next leader of the BC Liberal party.

First elected in 2017 and then re-elected in the Oct. 2020 general election, Ross wants to replace Andrew Wilkinson who resigned following the party’s poor showing in that latter election which saw the NDP capture a commanding majority.

Speaking this week, Ross said he was tapped on the shoulder by another BC Liberal MLA and told he should run in 2017 following Christy Clark’s resignation as BC Liberal party leader when that party was replaced in government by the NDP and Greens.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Ross of that encounter. “I wasn’t ready then. I needed to know the job of MLA. I had no idea what it meant.”

And now, approaching four years of experience in the legislature, Ross said he’s been absorbing the provincial political landscape and learning what it takes to be a leader.

That hasn’t changed what he says has been his core beliefs as the representative for the Skeena riding.

“My foundation is to build something for today and to build something for tomorrow,” said Ross who has been a consistent promoter of job creation through economic development.

Ross has also developed a reputation as being somewhat of an independent MLA.

“People talk about being hard right or hard left. I had no idea what that meant. I had to Google it. What I see is what’s practical and what’s good for the province and for the people,” he said.

The B.C. Liberal party has recently formed a committee that will set out the rules and timetable for the leadership race.

And until all that is known, Ross has yet to form an official campaign team or start raising money but is seeking the advice and opinions of people experienced in provincial politics and leadership.

He already has the support of fellow BC Liberal MLA John Rustad who represents the Nechako Lakes riding which stretches from the Houston area east to Vanderhoof and north to Fort St. James.

“I think he would make an excellent leader and premier,” said Rustad who worked closely with Ross when he was the aboriginal relations and reconciliation minister in a previous B.C. Liberal government and Ross was the chief councillor for the Haisla Nation.

“For my part, I would do anything I could to encourage him to run,” Rustad said. “He’s not caught up in the political system. He is what he is.”

Ross was first an elected councillor and then the elected chief councillor for the Haisla Nation when natural gas companies began knocking on the First Nation’s door in pursuit of economic development agreements leading to proposed liquefied natural gas plants in the Kitimat area.

He also served on indigenous economic development groups during the BC Liberal time in government and was then-Premier Christy Clark’s hand-picked candidate for the riding in the 2017 provincial election.