BC Liberal leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon takes his campaign through the Southern Interior

Falcon banks on experience

Kevin Falcon believes experience, leadership and a track record of getting things done matter as the membership of the BC Liberal Party get ready to elect a new leader.

Falcon, who spent 12 years as MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale, including nearly eight in cabinet, says he ticks all those boxes.

After leaving politics in 2013, Falcon has resurfaced as one of six people vying for the vacant leadership of the party following the resignation of Andrew Wilkinson.

He sat down with Castanet News during a campaign swing through the Southern Interior.

The field includes three sitting MLAs (Renee Merrifield, Michael Lee and Ellis Ross), former BC Chamber CEO Val Litwin and businessman Gavin Dew.

"I'm the only one running that has cabinet experience. I'm the only person running that's been a finance minister, a health minister, a transportation minister, and has eight years of private sector experience at a senior executive level to understand how to manage large complex organizations which, at the end of the day is what government is all about," said Falcon.

"We also need somebody who has the ability on day one to know how to run government."

While Falcon is considered the presumptive front runner in the race, his challengers are pointing to the party's need to rebrand itself and move forward with a new, fresh approach.

They point to Falcon as representing old ideas and the old way of doing thing.

In response, Falcon defended his record with the Campbell government, saying he's proud of the things they were able to accomplish, pointing to an across the board 25 per cent cut in personal income taxes, a large scale reduction of government red tape and one of the greatest Winter Olympics ever.

"But I also agree with them on one point, and that is we do have to be a different party moving forward, and that's why from the day I launched my campaign, I made it very clear that we were going to be leaders on the environment again, that we were going to be, under a Kevin Falcon leadership, make sure we've got real true affordable childcare.

"I think that's actually a good economic development tool when you can get young men and women back to work. I think we need policies that provide genuine opportunities for young people to get into their first home."

He also acknowledges the party has lost some of its social consciousness.

Falcon says they became too focused on AAA credit ratings and surplus budgets while ignoring some real needs such as affordable housing and childcare.

"I think we've also lost it in terms of people with mental health and addictions."

Falcon says the BC Liberals will always be a party that is fiscally conservative and responsible, but will need to have not just a better social conscious but better social outcomes, meaning less people on the streets and fewer addiction and overdose deaths.

There will be a cost, he says, but nowhere near what social issues are costing in health care, policing costs and the justice system.

He says significant up-front investments are needed for both housing for those with severe mental illness and the proper supports once they are transitioned back into society.

"Not the way the NDP are doing it now by overpaying and buying old motels and stuffing homeless people into these places and pretending they have support when they don't, and creating chaos in the communities that surround them," says Falcon.

"Let's make those up front investments. Yes, they will cost a lot, but by God we owe it to those most vulnerable in our community to ensure we are looking after them."

Falcon also set the record straight on comments he is against recently introduced five-day paid sick leave and an increase in the minimum wage.

Both he says are allegations in an NDP press release which took his comments out of context. Falcon says both are good ideas, but the timing was questionable.

He says as small business continues to struggle through COVID-19, the government continues to layer on additional costs, not recognizing the impact they are having.

"My view, and my party's position has always been five days of paid sick days, no problem with that, but that should be covered by the government.

"It shouldn't be imposed by small business. It shouldn't be an additional cost that they are now having to bear at a time they can least afford to bear it."

A new leader will be elected by party membership February 5, 2022.

More BC News