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Falcon says voters will move to the centre and B.C. United

B.C. United Leader tries to ease concerns about right-wing split in front of Greater Victoria business leaders
B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon speaks to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce Thursday, June 6, in Victoria. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Kevin Falcon presented himself and his party as B.C.'s middle-of-road-option during an appearance before business leaders in Greater Victoria today.

But the B.C. United leader could not escape questions about cracks within the so-called free enterprise coalition.

"British Columbians are mainstream and not extreme," he said after a June 6 speech to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. He said voters are not going to go for the extreme left or extreme right. They will go for the mainstream.

He made these comments amidst concerns about the direction of his party following the defection of two MLAs (Lorne Doerkson, Elenore Sturko) in the face of declining poll numbers to the Conservative Party of B.C. under John Rustad.

"I totally get the nervousness," he said, while trying to assure his audience that his party has the better prospects by way of candidates and policy. 

He said British Columbians are not paying attention to politics right now, adding they "rarely do" four and half months before the next election. 

"They are just busy," he said. "They are busy raising their kids. They are busy trying to struggle to live in the most unaffordable province in the country. They will not go for a party that doesn't represent mainstream, common sense values."

He acknowledged the departures from his caucus, but also pointed out that the B.C. NDP lost two MLAs.

"The B.C. Conservatives just lost three candidates that frankly are wingnuts, that have views that are way outside of the mainstream and I'm being charitable." 

He later contrasted these Conservative candidates with candidates running for B.C. United and predicted that Rustad's views on climate change won't play well on Vancouver Island.

"It certainly won't in the Lower Mainland, where 55 per cent of the seats come from," he said. 

Speaking without a prepared script, Falcon criticized the B.C.'s NDP's fiscal record and accused it of burdening the business community.  

"I can tell you the business community today is struggling," he said. "But you now have even new problems...that are very, very challenging that are not of your making."

He pointed to tax increases, additional paid sick days and statutory holidays, and annual increases in the minimum wage.

"But then factor in the social disorder and chaos you're dealing with on the streets," he added. "It's hard to retain staff when your staff are scared to be at work." 

Falcon pointed to B.C. Liberals' record on taxes and toward proposed B.C. United policies such the just-announced child care proposal and last year's plan to deal with mental health and addiction. Investments in mental health and addictions will pay off in greater safety and lower costs for public services such as police and ambulances, he said.

"So if we invest here and help people focus on getting better, we will save huge amounts over here," he said. 

Falcon linked these social policy promises with the promise to grow the "economic pie" and deliver capital projects on time.

"This is money that we could be using to build those treatment facilities I talked about, to deal with the school shortages that we have, to deal with a lot of the other assets that we ought to be investing in British Columbia," he said. 

Falcon also promised that a government under his leadership would be transparent and accountable.

"The approach you want to take is a dashboard of information, so people can measure what you are doing and if you are doing a bad job, you want to know about it." 

Questions frequently circled back to concerns about the B.C. NDP winning because of vote-splitting. He was asked if he would reconsider talks with the Conservatives about combining forces, or enter a coalition in a case of a minority government situation. 

"I am not going to go back and negotiate against myself," he said. "We will cooperate and make sure that we figure out a ensure that we keep the NDP out -- no question about that." 

Rustad will address the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce on June 19. 

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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