Former cabinet minister Kevin Falcon was the focus of criticism at the first B.C. Liberal leadership debate Tuesday evening, asked repeatedly if he would run in the 2024 election if he doesn’t win the party leadership.
“I’m running to be leader,” Falcon replied after Kelowna Mission MLA Renee Merrifield repeated a question raised by Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. “I’ve bled for this party,” added the 12-year Surrey MLA who served as health and finance minister and retired from politics before the 2013 election.
Newcomer Gavin Dew followed up by reading a quote from Falcon in 2011, when he ran for leadership against Christy Clark and pledged to run again in 2013, win or lose.
Val Litwin, like Dew a Vancouver resident who hasn’t held political office, emphasized his business and health care experience in a Sept. 28 debate that featured discussions of daycare, Indigenous relations and the challenges of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ross emphasized his work as Haisla Nation chief councillor getting a liquefied natural gas development in his home community of Kitimat. “I’m not a politician, I’m a leader,” he said, adding that he quit his job to run for the B.C. Liberals in an NDP-held constituency in 2013 because he wanted it to succeed.
Responding to a party member asking about municipal barriers to building more housing, Litwin said local governments are “set up to fail” and the province should tie infrastructure like transit lines to rezoning to make urban housing more available and affordable.
Lee agreed that the province needs “more strings” attached to transit funding to make sure increased density comes along with it. He noted that he is one of five MLAs out of 28 Greater Vancouver seats, after the NDP won a majority government in October 2020 with significant gains in urban communities.
Merrifield emphasized her experience working with Indigenous people in private business, before being elected to the B.C. legislature in 2017.
The hour-long debate was carried on the B.C. Liberals’ Facebook page. It is one of a series to be held before party members vote on a new leader in February 2022.
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