The BC Liberal Party’s leadership race concludes this week to determine who will lead British Columbia’s Official Opposition into the next provincial election. The governing BC NDP obviously have their hearts set on Kevin Falcon winning.
Unlike other BC Liberal leadership candidates, Kevin Falcon stirs up an almost-personal animosity from the BC NDP that has already rolled out an easy narrative against him: Kevin Falcon, rather than representing change and renewal for the battered BC Liberal brand, actually represents the party’s worst (perceived) traits as out-of-touch and elitist.
The NDP have deployed this narrative for over a year.
In January 2021, former NDP Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy wrote in the Vancouver Sun that Falcon’s aggressive service cuts as a Liberal cabinet minister precipitated B.C.’s current homelessness and addictions crises.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby has a recurring segment on his podcast, The Dash, called “The Falcon Report” where he too insists that Falcon “decimated social services.”
He also slammed the former Deputy Premier of B.C. for publicly laughing at sexist jokes about NDP MLA Bowinn Ma (for which Falcon has not apologized). Eby even noted that Falcon, speaking to alumni of his Shaughnessy private school, apparently characterized his time as a Liberal cabinet minister as an opportunity cost that prevented him from making much more money.
Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation Ravi Kahlon also referred to Falcon as the “poster boy” for Liberal budget cuts that created many of B.C.’s structural crises.
Kahlon recalled a 2008 incident where a woman threatened suicide on the Second Narrows Bridge, prompting the Vancouver Police Department to shut down the bridge. At the time, Falcon publicly remarked, “If people are trying to kill themselves, it is tough to stop them.”
Notably, the NDP had tremendous success discrediting former Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson as an out-of-touch elitist. This same communications strategy is being used against Falcon.
Kevin Falcon, for his part, has spoon-fed his opponents fodder to support this persuasive and damaging narrative.
After all, Falcon launched his leadership campaign by almost immediately coming out against the B.C. Speculation and Vacancy Tax (arguably, the province’s most popular tax). Fellow Liberal leadership candidate Gavin Dew has repeatedly reminded BC Liberal members that real estate developers, like Falcon who is an executive at Anthem Properties, are polled amongst the most untrustworthy professions in B.C.
The optics write their own effective attack ads: Falcon, as a former finance minister, helped create a speculative housing market, only to leave politics and immediately profit personally from that environment as a real estate developer himself.
In a televised Liberal leadership debate, Falcon mocked the NDP caucus for their pre-government professions. The BC NDP – whose caucus consists of engineers, teachers, nurses, tradespeople, farmers, and small business owners – easily spun his comments as smug and elitist.
Much like former BC Liberal leader Wilkinson, Falcon has been ambiguous on whether his leadership would tolerate anti-LGBTQ views within the party. Falcon advocated for “protecting the Christian community for their beliefs,” for which the BC NDP attacked him as tolerant of bigoted views.
While this may indicate the NDP’s assumption that Falcon will win the Liberal leadership, it also foreshadows something more inauspicious for BC Liberals: Kevin Falcon’s political baggage and propensity to make unrelatable (and unpopular) comments provides the perfect foil for the BC NDP.
Much like how Andrew Wilkinson was effectively demonized for being an elitist, Kevin Falcon provides the BC NDP with a playbook to keep the Official Opposition on defense.
In effect, the NDP will not defend their record when they can simply make any general election about Falcon’s history and his accumulating gaffes. It does not matter whether or not Kevin Falcon is truly unrelatable, arrogant, or uncaring. Rather, Falcon can so effortlessly be understood by the electorate as an out-of-touch elitist.
The monumental task for Falcon – who, if he wins the BC Liberal leadership, will not sit in the B.C. Legislature for another year – will be to convey his compassion for the needs of everyday British Columbians. Unfortunately, he has made very little, if any, progress on this task. Meanwhile, the BC NDP evidently understand this as a golden ticket to remain in power and they are surely hoping for Falcon to win the BC Liberal leadership on Feb. 5 in order to cash-in that jackpot at the next provincial election.
Mo Amir is the host of This is VANCOLOUR, British Columbia’s bona fide culture and politics talk show, now airing on Sundays at 7pm on CHEK.
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