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Put the knives away

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Part of a series on what the BC Liberals should do from here, Bob Price says the next leader’s home address matters less than their understanding of the entire province.

As BC Liberal Party officials lick their wounds in the aftermath of a stinging election defeat, it should be noted that while they may be down, the party managed British Columbia for 16 straight years; it certainly isn’t out.

That doesn’t mean ignoring what happened. The October result which elected only 28 to the legislature was the party’s second-worst electoral defeat – but as they prepare for a potentially painful look in the mirror, it’s also an opportunity for much-needed renewal.

Political parties have often risen from the ashes. New Democrats remember well the far-worse thumping they absorbed in 2001, when Joy McPhail and Jenny Kwan were the only NDP MLAs left standing. The federal (Progressive) Conservatives suffered a similar humiliation in 1993.

While the current situation facing BC Liberals is arguably not as dire, the coming months will likely determine the party’s fate, for good or bad.

First and foremost, the BC Liberal Party needs to engage in a broad, meaningful, and transparent engagement with the party’s grassroots as well as British Columbians in every corner of the province. This effort must encourage honest, direct, and unvarnished input. This effort must involve reaching into segments of the population underrepresented within the party, including LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities. This effort must focus on doing as much as possible to better connect with women and youth.

At times, this will be hard, messy, and uncomfortable.

Given the scope of the task that lies ahead, BC Liberals would be ill-advised to rush into a leadership process before the heavy lifting is complete. Frankly, if they fail to get this engagement right, nothing else will matter. If this effort isn’t done well, there may not even be a party to lead.

Next, everyone in the party – grassroots, members, caucus, and potential leadership candidates – need to leave their knives in their respective drawers.

In public discussion, issues like money laundering, housing affordability, or even ICBC, arguably BC Liberals have done more damage to themselves than external adversaries through a circular firing squad mentality.

John Horgan and the NDP feasted on this lack of internal discipline on several uncomfortable issues. Pushing back with maximum impact will only be possible when BC Liberals employ a greater duty of care for their party and remind each other where to focus pointed criticisms – the NDP government.

As BC Liberals look within, they will have little choice but to lay all their cards on the table. There appears to be very little “Liberal” within the BC Liberal ranks. In its current form the party speaks strongly to rural British Columbians, but for urban voters, apparent conservativism appears to miss the mark.

There is an underlying view among too many that the party’s next leader needs to have a Metro Vancouver address. Much more important is a clear understanding of the entire province, regardless of postal code. John Horgan just won the second largest majority government in B.C. history – and he lives in Langford, on Vancouver Island. On the other hands, the BC Liberals had a leader from the big city, who suffered a most humiliating defeat.

The BC Liberals might reflect on the success of the Bennett family, who called Kelowna home. What will matter most is finding who is best able to unify the province.

For BC Liberals to return to their former glory, there are bridges to build, walls to tear down, and an open and honest debate of policies and political philosophies. Andrew Wilkinson’s official exit from the leader’s office is the first step.

Now, the real work begins.

 As always, I welcome your comments and criticism on Twitter @kammornanchor and email bob@theorca.ca.

Bob Price is a veteran B.C. broadcaster who anchored the morning news on CHNL radio in Kamloops for the past 30 years. Bob is also a past Webster Award winner whose previous stops included Vancouver and Calgary. 

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  • The best place to find Bob Price is his daily Orca Business Beat, free when you subscribe to The Fin. Which is also free.
  • Back in April, Bob Price interviewed Jim Pattison about the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the then-new lockdowns.
  • Andrew Wilkinson’s resignation over the weekend triggers a one-year countdown clock for the BC Liberals to to find a new leader. Gavin Dew says what matters most is getting the process right, even if it means tweaking the rules.
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