B.C. politics: Candidates make their pitches for Liberal leadership


All six candidates — Gavin Dew, Kevin Falcon, Michael Lee, Val Litwin, Renee Merrifield and Ellis Ross — acknowledged the need for change

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The six leadership candidates gathered on Saturday to present their vision of the future for the B.C. Liberal party.

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Many candidates stressed that the party needs to be “renewed,” “rebooted” or “rebuilt” with the aim of creating a more diverse and inclusive community of B.C. Liberals.

Kevin Falcon , who held several ministerial posts in the former Liberal government and is perhaps the best known candidate outside political circles, said the party should not shy away from past successes. He highlighted several infrastructure projects in B.C. as well as the 2010 Winter Olympics as big wins for the Liberal party.

He acknowledged the need to “rebrand, reboot and re-energize” the party, however.

After a lengthy introductory segment talking about supporting families with autistic children, Falcon addressed his recent firing of a campaign staffer following allegations that the man subjected a female staffer from another campaign to a barrage of hateful, profanity-laden insults.

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“Last weekend’s incident,” he said, “offered a reminder about the need for respect and professionalism.”

Michael Lee , whose campaign worker was the victim of the attack by Falcon’s staffer, opened his speech by acknowledging the challenges facing the party.

“It’s time to talk about who we are, what we stand for, and how we want to go forward,” he said.

“It’s time for a difficult conversation,” Lee said, adding that the party had lost “40 per cent of its vote share since 2001.”

“We need to modernize our party so everyone feels welcome,” Lee said.

Renne Merrifield , the only female candidate, also said the party needs to change.

“Right now, our party has a diversity problem,” she admitted.

“We once had it all — and now we do not. And that is our reality.”

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Ellis Ross , a member of the Haisla Nation, stressed the need for more voices at the table and a return to the party’s grassroots. “We’ve gotta get back to listening,” he said. “We haven’t changed with the times.”

Ross also spoke of the previous Liberal government’s efforts to bring LNG profits and development to First Nations communities.

Long-time political operator Gavin Dew stressed the need to support British Columbian families, especially those with autistic children.

“It’s all about family,” he said. “It’s about making sure my kids have a future, right here in B.C.”

For entrepreneur Val Litwin , who spent his career “reinvigorating old legacy brands,” renewing the party means building on the past and embracing what comes next.

“Renewal is not revolution,” he said.

Voting for the B.C. Liberal leader will run from Feb. 3 to 5, 2022, and is open to eligible members. The new leader will be elected on Feb. 5, 2022.

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