The leader of British Columbia’s official Opposition, the BC United party, says he’ll make sure voters have a clear choice in the election next fall.
Kevin Falcon said in a year-end interview that voters will have the opportunity to decide between the “unaffordable” New Democrats or the results-oriented BC United.
Competition with the B.C. Conservatives, who have two seats in the legislature and are riding high in opinion polls, and the name change to BC United from the BC Liberal Party, will not be major deciding factors in the October 2024 campaign, Falcon said.
Vote splitting on the political right has always been an issue in B.C. elections, but the potential threat to BC United from the provincial Conservatives will fizzle when voters realize they are not Pierre Poilievre’s federal Conservatives, said Falcon.
“I’m not concerned and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “It’s because I’ve been around for a while and I know that the polling is frankly b.s.”
He said much of that is confusion from people thinking they would vote for Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the federal Conservatives.
Falcon, 60, said most people in B.C. could not recognize John Rustad, the B.C. Conservative Party leader, if he stopped them on the street.
“The support out there isn’t because John Rustad has suddenly captured the imagination of the public,” he said. “My God, of course not, it’s Pierre Poilievre and the federal Conservatives.”
B.C.’s long-dormant Conservatives achieved official party status this year with Rustad and Abbotsford South MLA Bruce Banman, both elected as former B.C. Liberals, joining forces in the legislature.
Rustad, 60, became Conservative leader last March after being dumped from Falcon’s caucus in August 2022 for supporting climate change deniers on social media.
Banman, a former Abbotsford mayor, defected from BC United in September, saying the Conservatives would allow him to speak freely on issues of concern to his constituents.
Falcon said he had no regrets ejecting Rustad from the party caucus.
“I said, what you can’t do when you are part of a team is just keep tweeting out climate denial stuff that hurts the entire team,” said Falcon. “John refused to adhere to that fundamental basic discipline you have to have when you are part of a party.”
Falcon said he perhaps could have done more to keep Banman from jumping to the Conservatives.
With about 10 months before the fall election, Falcon said voters will see BC United as the challenger and alternative to the NDP government of Premier David Eby.
“People are going to look and see a team that’s ready,” he said. “The BC United is the common-sense party that is going to fix the challenges we face in B.C., and is going to get us back so people can feel optimistic about the future.”
Affordability, heath care, crime and the ongoing overdose crisis will continue to be issues of focus for BC United as the election approaches, Falcon said.
“Right now, we have become the most unaffordable province in the entire country under seven years of NDP government,” he said, citing high housing prices and rising rents.
BC United will make affordability changes if elected, including removing the provincial taxes on all fuels and cutting the carbon tax completely if the Conservatives are elected in Ottawa and drop the federal tax, Falcon said.
BC United will provide free addiction recovery treatment in response to the illicit drug overdose crisis that has resulted in more than 13,000 deaths since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016, he said.
“You don’t help people get better by saying, ‘We’re going to make sure you have access to free, government-supplied drugs,'” he said.
“I am appalled, frankly, at the reckless decriminalization of hard drugs that the government introduced. We’re the only government in Canada that’s doing this crazy experiment.”
Falcon said he is not concerned about recent polling that suggests the NDP holds a solid lead over BC United, saying polls suggested the New Democrats were on their way to a massive victory in 2013 only to lose to Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberals.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2023.