The front-running candidate to be the next leader of the B.C. Liberals travelled around Vancouver Island last week to try to build support.
Kevin Falcon held a series of private gatherings in Victoria, Duncan and Nanaimo from Aug. 3-6, meeting party members and potential party members he hopes will back him in his efforts to become the next leader of the B.C. Liberals.
He said he approached the week with reasonable expectations about how many people would want to come talk politics with him in August, just nine months after an election, but said he was surprised and encouraged by the number of people he was able to meet and the diversity of the crowd.
The B.C. Liberals were shut out in Vancouver Island ridings in the last election and Falcon said as far as re-building support in the region, he knows there are no shortcuts.
“It’s going to be hard work, it’s going to be spending a lot of time on the Island, it’s going to be energizing our supporters and potential supporters and it’s going to be about ideas – big ideas – to solve some of the intractable problems that we face today,” he said.
He said his party will need to try to show voters that it has better ideas and better solutions than the B.C. NDP.
“I’m realistic. We’re going to be clawing our way back, but I’ll tell you I’m prepared to work as hard as we have to,” Falcon said.
The former cabinet minister had the transportation and then health portfolios under former premier Gordon Campbell, then the finance portfolio under former premier Christy Clark. Falcon did not seek re-election in 2013 and took a job with a Vancouver investment corporation.
He said his combined public- and private-sector experience will help him, if he becomes party leader, to attract a “great bunch of diverse candidates” and said the idea of starting fresh and helping rebuild a party appeals to him.
Falcon said listening to party member on the Island, the primary concerns he heard were around homelessness and mental health and addiction. They’re topics that come up wherever he goes and no one seems to think the problems are getting any better, he said.
“We need an entirely different approach to dealing with this problem. One that is based on compassion, but also based on the reality that many of the folks on the streets are there with severe mental illness and they need really long-term, 24-7 care to look after them, stabilize them, with the goal of streaming them back into the community some years down the road,” Falcon said.
He said the B.C. Liberals better understand the needs of small business and he said his party will also provide real environmental leadership and effective child care plans.
“I think at the end of the day, government comes down to two really big issues: leadership and competence…” Falcon said. “Our job is to make sure that we provide that really clear, compelling alternative for voters on the Island, and we will do that.”
Another B.C. Liberals leadership candidate, Michael Lee, visited Vancouver Island last month. Other announced candidates so far include Gavin Dew, Val Litwin, Renee Merrifield and Ellis Ross.