With the BC Liberals poised to choose a new leader and premier Saturday, George Abbott has the endorsement of both Nelson’s mayor and the head of the local riding association.
“George is an experienced, rural gentleman. That’s probably a good way to put it,” says Debby Zeeben, president of the Nelson-Creston Liberals.
Although she hasn’t known him long, “what I know is his track record. He has worked hard in his community. I think he really gets the way rural politics can be strengthened.”
Giving the Shuswap MLA a louder voice in government “can only be good for rural communities,” she adds.
Zeeben says after much consideration on which candidate to support, she ultimately chose Abbott based on his experience.
“That would be what he could take to the public. Doing business in a people-friendly way that works for all of the province, not just one section,” she says.
Nelson mayor John Dooley agrees Abbott is the right man for the job.
“We finally have someone from rural B.C. who has a real chance of being premier,” he says. “I had a lot of contact with him when we were trying to put together the renovation for the Kootenay Lake Hospital’s ER. He was great to work with.”
Dooley calls the former health minister “a pretty sincere guy” who “has an understanding of some of the challenges we face in rural areas.”
Although he doesn’t belong to the Liberals or any other party — and therefore won’t cast a ballot this weekend — Dooley thinks Abbott may be the person to bridge the divide between the Lower Mainland and the rest of B.C.
“It’s almost like there are two different worlds,” he says. “Not to say you shouldn’t expect to see different activity, but a fair sharing of revenues would be something to ask for — a lot of wealth is generated in rural B.C.”
Dooley laments that former Nelson-Creston MLA Corky Evans fell short in two bids to become NDP leader and premier: “I thought he would have been excellent in that position. Another person very connected to rural B.C.”
Evans himself has a favourite in the Liberal leadership race, but laughs “I’m not going to tell you who I’m rooting for because I think it might hurt the guy.
“There is one candidate in that race who has always interested me and there are some candidates who have annoyed me in the past,” he says.
Evans adds he wants the best candidate to win — not necessarily the one who might give the NDP the best chance at forming the next government.
“I really care about British Columbia and don’t want to see it governed badly by either side,” he says.
“People who do politics always come round to wanting to win as opposed to thinking about governance. But I would like it if there was a good leader governing the province and a good leader in opposition.”
He also likes the Liberals’ new voting system that will equalize the weight of all ridings in choosing their leader.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” he says. “A system that empowers the whole province is a good idea.”
Evans’ successor as MLA says it makes little difference to her who the Liberals pick.
“They’re all carbon copies of Gordon Campbell,” Michelle Mungall says. “I have seen them all in operation as cabinet ministers and MLAs, and every one of them has the same level of arrogance and disdain for the B.C. public.”
In addition to Abbott, Christy Clark, Mike DeJong, and Kevin Falcon are on Saturday’s ballot.