BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count

British Columbia’s Liberal party should view the election results as a wake-up call from voters who punished the free-enterprise coalition for refusing to renew itself in changing times, say former and current members of the legislature.

The Liberals lost up to a dozen seats and finished a distant second to the New Democrats who will form a majority government.

The election revealed the party’s declining support in Metro Vancouver and its failure to recognize the needs of middle-class families, said Jas Johal, who was the Liberal member for Richmond-Queensborough until his defeat in Saturday’s election.

The Liberals also must do better when it comes to reflecting and supporting diversity and the rights of LGBTQ-plus people and others, he said in an interview.

“When you think you can convert somebody who is gay to a heterosexual life, I think that’s absurd,” said Johal, referring to former Liberal Laurie Throness who placed advertisements in a magazine supporting conversion therapy.

Throness quit as the Liberal candidate in Chilliwack Kent during the election after comparing free contraception to eugenics at an all-candidates meeting. He continued to run as an Independent and was trailing NDP rival Kelli Paddon by fewer than 200 votes with mail-in ballots still to be counted.

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count, so the final result in some ridings could change.

Johal said the Liberals chose to lick their wounds after the 2017 election when they should have embraced renewal after winning more seats and votes than the NDP but found themselves out of power when the Greens helped the New Democrats form a minority government.

“So in 2020, B.C. voters inflicted renewal on the party and that’s what you’re seeing now,” he said. “When you lose the amount of seats that we did in what was once solid B.C. Liberal territory, it’s a wake-up call. To be very blunt, B.C. voters took us to the back of the barn and gave us a thumping.”

Johal’s comments came a few hours before Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announced on Monday that he will step down as party leader as soon as a successor is chosen. Wilkinson said his announcement starts the “challenging and exciting process of rebuilding the party.”

READ MORE: Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Mike Bernier, a former Liberal cabinet minister, said the party will have to do a lot of soul searching after Saturday’s election defeat.

The Liberals must find ways to keep the party’s Liberal and Conservative supporters together to maintain a united front to counter the NDP, he said.

Bernier, who was re-elected in his Peace River South riding, said now may be the time to change the name of the party, which has no affiliation with the federal Liberals.

“In a big part of the province, a lot of the challenges are around the party name,” he said, adding that past calls to change the name were not supported by its members.

Bernier said the Liberals were dejected following their loss of power in 2017 and renewal was not being considered, but it will be now.

“We need to look at our policies. We need to look at our vision and we need to look at what we can offer the people of B.C. as an alternative to the NDP,” he said.

Johal said the Liberals must examine how they surrendered the urban vote to the NDP over the years.

The NDP won traditional Liberal seats in Vancouver, Surrey and even the Fraser Valley, he noted.

“Those ridings, especially the Fraser Valley, Richmond, that was the wall,” Johal said. “That’s where our support would never waver and now it has. It speaks to the fundamental need for the party to renew and speak to a new generation of voters.”

He said a modern and renewed Liberal party must focus on more than just cutting taxes. It must speak to the needs of people, especially those in Metro Vancouver.

“It can’t just all be about sawmills and LNG and an industrial economy,” Johal said. “We’re not having that broader modern conversation. We’ve got to start talking that urban language.”

Prof. Sanjay Jeram, who teaches political science at Simon Fraser University, said the Liberals must maintain the right and centre coalition by continuing to keep the party as the voice of fiscal conservatives, and supporters of entrepreneurs and small business.

“In some ways the election might be a silver lining with only 29 or 30 seats, because they are going to have a lot of new candidates next time,” he said.

Johal said the Liberals should consider the next four years as an opportunity to get things right.

“It’s a tough, hard slog but we’ve got four years and that’s a long enough period to rebuild this party.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC LiberalsBC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The second annual 50+ Angel Tree program is underway. The angel tree is located at Save On Foods and nominations are currently being accepted. (Laurie Harris file)
Cranbrook 50+ angel tree program underway

Nominate or sponsor someone who needs a little extra holiday spirit this year

Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
‘People need to start listening’: IH top doc combats COVID-19 misconceptions

Dr. Albert de Villiers says light at the end of the tunnel will grow in step with people’s adherence to PHO guidance

(File)
One death and 82 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

1,981 total cases, 609 are active and those individuals are on isolation

Jim Webster displays one of the 50 ski chairs he recently purchased from the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR). After around 50 years of use at the Kimberley Alpine Resort, Webster is now selling the chairs for $500 each to raise funds for a local parks project. Paul Rodgers photo.
Jim Webster sells vintage Kimberley Alpine Resort ski chairs for park fundraiser

Marysville resident Jim Webster recently came into possession of some Kimberley history;… Continue reading

Stock photo courtesy Cliff MacArthur/provincialcourt.bc.ca.
Double-murder trial in case of Cranbrook couple killed adjourned until January

A trial has been adjourned until January for two men charged with… Continue reading

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Good Samaritan Mountainview Village located at 1540 KLO Road in Kelowna. (Good Samaritan Society)
First long-term care resident dies from COVID-19 in Interior Health

Man in his 80s dies following virus outbreak at Mountainview Village

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Amanda Weber-Roy, conservation specialist for BC Parks in the Kootenays. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
VIDEO: Kootenay youth climate group works to protect Nelson’s water supply

Youth Climate Corps members spent five weeks thinning forest in West Arm Park

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read