BC Liberal leadership candidate Dianne Watts, second from right, speaks with Jeff Cook from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations as others wait their turn at a meet and greet Saturday night in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

BC Liberal leadership candidate stresses community in first Island stops

Dianne Watts continues tour in Victoria on Sunday, Oct. 29

Re-connecting with communities and coming up with a province-wide forestry strategy were two key points in BC Liberal leadership candidate Dianne Watts’ speech to party members in Port Alberni, Saturday night.

It was Watts’ first stop on her second tour of Vancouver Island since she announced in September that she would run for the provincial Liberal leadership, resigning her seat as Conservative MP for the South Surrey-White Rock riding. Watts won her federal seat in 2015, after serving as Surrey’s mayor for nearly a decade.

Watts told about 30 supporters gathered at Pastimes Sports Bar & Grill that healthy communities are at the crux of a healthy province.

“If your community’s not whole, this province is not whole,” she said. “It has to be…economically viable, there has to be jobs, there has to be growth in all different sectors. There has to be great education and there has to be a strong social fabric and social network to make sure we’re building strong, resilient communities.”

Better communication between municipal, provincial and federal governments is at the heart of the issue, she added, saying she hears about the disconnect between governments everywhere she travels.

One woman at the gathering said Vancouver Islanders’ issues seem to be ignored once election campaigns are finished, and Islanders retaliated by turning the Island into a sea of NDP orange. Watts agreed. “We lost the election because we didn’t listen and we need to start listening,” she said.

Chris Duncan, a board member of the Alberni Valley Community Forest, said the BC Liberals need to educate themselves on forestry issues such as the difficulty smaller contractors are having in dealing with larger forestry companies. “…Contractors are going broke,” while larger companies are making 18-per cent profits, he said.

Another retired forester said access to private lands now locked behind gates is an issue any potential leader needs to take seriously.

Watts was critical of the present-day government for their lack of an overall forestry plan for B.C. that deals with not only wildfire management but the closure of small mills and access to private lands as well.

“We’ve got to bring people together and have some tough conversations about how do we make this industry and this sector viable, sustainable and long term,” she said.

On Sunday, Watts resumed her tour with a one-hour stop in Parksville at the Rod & Gun bar and grill that drew nearly 50 guests.

After mingling with visitors, Watts shared a short address, then opened the floor for questions. She was asked to share her views and plans on topics including the gas tax, the future of the E&N Railway, the education budget, pending federal legislation on derelict vessels and proportional representation.

Watts continues her tour of the Island on Sunday in Victoria (4–5:30 p.m., Bard and Banker (1022 Government St.). She will also hold a morning event in Saanich from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 30 at Felicita’s Pub (3800 Finnerty Rd.).

She plans to visit 87 ridings before the party votes for its new leader.

The BC Liberal leadership seat became vacant when former leader Christy Clark resigned her seat on July 28, 10 days after NDP leader John Horgan supplanted her as premier of British Columbia.

Watts told the Port Alberni gathering that the party needs to figure out what its vision will be, and do it quickly. Above all, she added, the party needs to start listening to its constituents: “That we reconnect with voters, that we renew the party and that we really rebuild the trust that was lost. I mean the trust that was lost through the process of the Throne Speech. I hear over and over again, who are we as BC Liberals?” she said.

“I would say we are a free enterprise party, we have a social conscience and when we have a foundation that we have built on the economic values of job growth and job creation—No. 1 in the country—that is a great foundation, but it’s got to be meaningful to the communities.

“We have one chance to get it right,” she said. “If we don’t, if we don’t make the right decisions on this front, we’re going to be in opposition for an awful long time.”

In Parksville, the veteran campaigner said B.C. citizens would be hearing from a number of candidates in the leadership race, but that one question should be prominent in voters’ minds.

“I think this party has to choose a leader that can win the next election,” Watts said. “What I would suggest is to look at each single candidate; look at the qualities of leadership, the qualities of connectedness and understanding. But also asking the question, ‘Can this person win the next election?’

“Because that’s what it’s all about.”

Members of the BC Liberal Party will vote for their new leader Feb. 1, 2 and 3, 2018. Anyone wanting to get in on the vote must become a member of the party by Dec. 29, 2017.

Six leadership debates will be planned in the upcoming weeks for Surrey, Prince George, Nanaimo, Thompson-Okanagan, Vancouver and an event hosted by the BC Liberal Indigenous Network.

— With files from Parksville Qualicum Beach News

editor@albernivalleynews.com

BC Liberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Three face charges in Nelson fentanyl busts

Two men and a woman were arrested in two separate incidents

Milestone RCMP Cops For Kids fundraiser ride going virtual

You can join and help RCMP raise funds for families and possibly win 20th anniversary cycling shirt

Nelson cyclist run over by truck

Driver ticketed for failing to yield right of way on left turn

Hwy 1 flooding causes massive delays on certain Arrow Lakes ferry routes

Motorists have been waiting around three hours to get on ferries

RDCK: spring flooding financial relief available

The provincial funds are for those affected by flooding in May and early June

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Most Read