As BC Liberal Party MLAs check their shoulders to see which one of their colleagues will make the first step toward becoming the party’s leader, current and former Surrey MLAs are suggesting that the most appropriate candidate may be one from outside the caucus.
Former premier and BC Liberal Party leader Christy Clark stepped down June 29 after holding B.C.’s top job for six years. Her decision came as a surprise to many, because the week before she reaffirmed her commitment to leading the party in opposition.
As the party searches for a new boss, former Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg – who did not seek re-election May 9 after five terms in provincial office – said there are advantages to recruiting from outside of the party.
He said the BC Liberals need someone who can reaffirm the party’s stability after Clark’s throne speech, which was made two weeks after the election. The speech, Hogg said, contradicted a number of positions made by the party during the campaign.
“We lost a little bit of balance when we ran on a platform and shortly after the election we introduced a throne speech that really diverted a long way from the platform we ran on,” Hogg told Peace Arch News Wednesday.
“We went through a campaign and presented all of the things we believed we were going to carry out and then there was a quick change. I think there’s some instability around that and there’s a need to build back the confidence and stability that is needed to go forward, I think some of that was lost.”
Hogg said the BC Liberals should have put more of a focus on education and health care during the party’s most recent campaign.
“This has been said, I don’t think the campaign was run as well as it could have and as well as it should have been run. I think part of that now needs to be readdressed.”
As for potential leaders, Hogg said he doesn’t have any that come to mind.
“Depending on the level of renewal the party wants to address, I think there are some distinctive advantages of getting someone who is outside of the party who is not part of the old regime that has been in power for 16 years and went through the election,” he said.
There’s been some media speculation that South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts – a former Surrey mayor – is making a move for the position. Hogg said he hasn’t spoken with the MP, but “I’ve heard those rumours that she may be interested.”
“Certainly Dianne is well known, particularly in the Lower Mainland. I’m just not sure about her relationship and commitment to the federal Conservatives at this point.”
PAN attempted to contact Watts, but her legislative assistant emailed back saying Watts is “unavailable for an interview at this time.” PAN asked why but received no response.
However, the Globe and Mail received a statement this week from Watts saying that she had received a lot of calls and emails about the contest, but “I have not made any decisions at all one way or another.”
BC Liberal Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Marvin Hunt told PAN this week that there are a number of people that would make a good fit for the leadership, inside and outside the party.
“You’ve got, for example, people like (Kamloops-South Thompson MLA) Todd Stone who are young, smart, good head on their shoulders.”
Asked if he was referring to Watts when he said there’s potential leadership from outside of the party, Hunt said “Sure.”
“She’s one that certainly the press has been making a fair bit of lately, and I suspect there will be others as well.”
Although he hasn’t seriously considered making a move for the leadership, Hunt said the thought did cross his mind.
“Just about as fast as it went into my mind, it went out the other side,” he said, noting media attention is a deterrent.
“The saying goes that you go from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond. The press are piranhas.”
Another aspect of the leadership job Hunt wouldn’t enjoy, he said, are “vicious” online trolls who hide behind fake names.
“That’s why I enjoyed municipal politics because it was much more local. Sure, you still had people that were upset with you no matter what happened, but by the same token, they were far more gentle because they knew that they could meet you in the grocery store.”
Stephanie Cadieux, BC Liberal MLA for Surrey South, also said she has no interest in leading the party.
“I’m very happy in my role. (Leading the party) is another level of commitment to the province and it takes a certain type of person. I certainly have passion and ideas but I am comfortable for someone else to have that (job),” she said.
Cadieux said that at this point, she won’t identify any potential candidates.
“There are a lot of names being bantered about, of course, and I’m sure there are likely to be some that haven’t yet circulated. Right now we’re getting speculation from all sorts of arenas, but until individuals make it known publicly that they’re going to make a run for it and put their positions on their table, I’m not going to presuppose it.”
She said there are capable people both inside and outside the caucus that could fill the role.
“It will be about who I believe puts forward the vision for the province that is best for today.”
BC Liberal Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies said she was disappointed with Clark’s resignation, however starting on a clean slate could be healthy for the party.
“It’s not what I would have picked but now that the premier made her decision, there’s an opportunity for us to rejuvenate the party and think about what we need to do for the people of British Columbia… and come up with a plan,” Redies said.