COLUMN: Dianne Watts still has a lot to offer

Former Surrey MP loses BC Liberal leadership bid

Dianne Watts gave it a good try, but she came up short in the final round of BC Liberal leadership vote-counting Saturday.

Watts ended up with 46.89 per cent of the votes, to Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson’s 53.11 per cent.

The BC Liberals are in a time of transition after winning the most seats in the 2017 election but failing to form government. That led to the resignation of former premier Christy Clark, and the protracted leadership race which ended Saturday night.

Watts gambled a lot in an attempt to win the leadership. She gave up her seat as a Conservative MP, a seat that the party ended up losing in December’s byelection. Former BC Liberal MLA and White Rock mayor Gordon Hogg won it for the Liberals.

Watts has also given up any immediate future in politics. It is unclear if she will become active in the BC Liberal party now.

She has no specific role. She does not have a seat in the legislature, and it is unlikely that any will open up soon. While the BC Liberals need all the help they can get to reach many of the disaffected voters in Surrey, who knows if she will be part of that outreach effort?

There is a slight possibility that Watts will seek to return to Surrey politics, but unless she takes on incumbent Linda Hepner (her chosen successor) in October’s election, her only other option would be to seek a seat on council. She would do good work there, but council members do not have the profile or the clout of a mayor.

Watts still has a lot to offer, and maybe she will receive some attractive offers from the private sector. She has many connections, and can open a lot of doors. Watts did a good job as Surrey mayor. She had vision. She had a determination to bring in a different approach on issues like homelessness, health care and community amenities. She had to fight some battles early in her term as mayor with an obstructionist council – most of whom went on to become her fervent supporters. That is a rare achievement in politics.

The Surrey First slate she founded, which holds all nine seats on council, remains committed to her vision.

As time goes on, Watts may be thankful she didn’t win the BC Liberal leadership. Many in the party remain embittered by their loss of power last summer.

The fact that BC Liberal members elected Wilkinson, the oldest candidate in the group and a fierce debater and partisan, as their leader shows that the hard-core members think the NDP taking over government is simply an aberration which will soon be corrected.

The BC Liberals may end up spending more time in the political wilderness than they expect to. Wilkinson may never become premier.

Watts wanted to try to bring a different approach to the party – one of the few things she was specific about in leadership debates – and a change in approach seems less likely now.

It is certain that Watts’ many supporters in Surrey wish her well as she considers the next step in her journey.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News.

Just Posted

Team BC’s having fun, ‘feeling good’ about back-to-back victories

A junior curling team, based out of Langley, has yet to lose a game in the national championships.

Dr. Lipjob avoids jail, gets 30-day suspended sentence

She will have to serve the 30 days in prison if she commits a breach during her two-year’s probation

Surrey farmers taking stock of revamped Canada Food Guide

Products that were once big at the table — like meat and dairy — have been put on the back-burner

VIDEO: ‘The dog picks the job’: Meet the newest member of the Surrey RCMP

Cambria, a labrador-golden retriever mix, is the first victim services dog at the detachment

Cloverdale’s Dan Gibbons remembered for his devotion, humour

Longtime local served with RCMP for more than 35 years

Canada’s archive buys rare book that hints at Nazi plans for North America

The 1944 book may have served as a blueprint for a Nazi purge

Teravainen’s 3 points lift Hurricanes to 5-2 win over Canucks

Vancouver heads into all-star break on losing note

B.C. hospital apologizes for veteran’s five-day hallway stay

Clinical director of Victoria General Hospital says case of retired veteran ‘definitely excessive’

Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

Plecas spoke to media at the opening of a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Abbotsford Wednesday

Advocate hopes B.C. legislature scandal leads to more transparency

‘Depressing’ that it takes a scandal to inspire freedom of information reform, says Sara Neuert

Ex-Mountie involved in Taser death at Vancouver airport sues government

Kwesi Millington claims he acted in accordance with RCMP training

47 men arrested by Vancouver police for allegedly seeking sex with teenage girls

Seven of those arrested have been charged as part of a two-month operation

Richmond businesses struggle to hire and keep staff because of high cost of housing

Chamber of commerce calls for diverse housing options, redevelopment of George Massey corridor

LETTER: Seniors home care, day programs expanding, Adrian Dix says

B.C. health minister responds to latest Seniors Advocate report

Most Read

l -->