New Liberal leader will have to resonate with voters in Metro Vancouver

Letnick: Task was daunting

The next leader of the BC Liberal party will have to figure out why the party is so popular throughout rural B.C. and the interior and not within Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island.

That, according to Kelowna-Lake Country MLA-elect Norm Letnick, one of the senior statesmen within the Liberal caucus.

The party hopes to find that person as it searches for a new leader to replace Andrew Wilkinson, who announced this week he is stepping down after the Liberals lost ground to the governing NDP in Saturday's provincial election.

"What makes us so strong here and gives us 55 to 60 per cent of the votes and makes us not competitive in most of the ridings around Vancouver, is something the candidates for leader are going to have to convince the members of the party they know what that issue is...or, what the secret sauce is," said Letnick.

He says the person that articulates that best will have a good chance to becoming leader or the party, and the next premier.

But, that person won't be Letnick.

"I think I'm too old. I'm going to be 63 in a month, and I also think geographically, it's a challenge because our support is lacking in Metro Vancouver.

"It would be a very difficult task for someone outside that area to get a lot of popular support in that area."

Letnick said he wouldn't discount anyone from outside the Lower Mainland, such as Kamloops-South Thompson MLA-elect Todd Stone from the leadership, saying he will look at each candidate's credentials regardless of where they reside.

As for a total reboot of the party, Letnick says he has no problem with a name change but, as for new blood or a new direction, he reiterates the party just needs the best person.

"The challenge is what you change it to," he says referring to a name change.

"BC Conservatives is taken, BC Liberals is taken, the BC Party is taken. We've looked at this before and found most of the good names are already taken.

"The other challenge to that is if you vacate a name then somebody else might pick it up and use it. Then you're competing against yourselves."

As for the election itself, Letnick says the task of trying to unseat a popular premier in the middle of a pandemic was daunting at best, adding he can't think of anyone who could have pulled out a victory.

"Andrew put in the work, he put together a team that developed I think, a great platform...one of the best I've ever seen in all my years of politics," said Letnick.

"But, when you're working in a pandemic, people will tend, I believe, to support the status quo that has brought them well to this point."

The party has not yet announced when a leadership race will take place.

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