It may seem incongruous, but Randy White sees some similarities between the B.C. Conservative party and the federal New Democrats.
Like the NDP, he said, the B.C. Conservatives have come to a point where they can no longer act as a protest vote, but rather, must come across as a government in waiting.
The former federal Conservative MP and Reform Party sparkplug said the B.C. Conservatives are continuing to grow in popularity and predicted they would at least obtain official opposition status when voters go to the polls in the next provincial election.
That rise, he said, has already begun and he predicted both B.C. voters and the governing Liberals could be in for a surprise — sooner, rather than later.
“I had some surprising calls over Christmas and I can say with some assurance it is very likely the Conservatives will be a party in the legislature before the next election,” he said. “I think there are enough disgruntled members in their caucus and I don’t know if Christy Clark can hold all that together.”
White said he sees the B.C. Conservatives either forming government or at least becoming the official opposition after the next election.
“If all those who voted Conservative federally voted Conservative provincially, he said, it would likely be enough to give his party a majority,” he said. “This has become a lot more serious.”
White said his party’s momentum has changed the way voters think about the Conservatives, a party that has languished in the political doldrums for decades.
“Just the other night I had a discussion about splitting the vote,” he said. “We don’t hear that any more. We can say the other guys are splitting the vote, but not us. The people have lost confidence of the people, so in desperation, what you have is Liberal supporters saying we are splitting the vote, in an effort to hang on at any cost, but it’s not going to happen for them. It’s just not there. The days are gone where you can scare someone into voting for you.”
The growing popularity of the B.C. Conservatives, he said, means that, like the federal NDP, they have to change the way they present themselves.
“We are now faced with some very real responsibilities,” he said. “When you look at what happened federally, the Liberals were almost thrown right out, the Bloc disappeared and the NDP made a surge and Harper formed a big majority government. We have to face the potential that the voters are going to elect Conservatives as a government.”
Along with that possibility, he said, comes the responsibility to nominate excellent candidates and getting them prepared not to just run, but to win.
“What has happened over the last four or five months is that people are no longer looking for a few seats in the legislature, but rather they are looking for a change in government,” he said.
What the party has to do now, he said, is to make policies that make sense , are good for the people and address the issue of declining disposable incomes, among other issues.
Although he concedes that taking a party out of the wilderness and making it ready to form government is an enormous undertaking, he said the process is already well underway and quality candidates are starting to flock to the banner.
“In Parksville-Qualicum we have found several people who are very good,” he said. “Alberni-Pacific Rim is not as far ahead, but they already have two people lined up to be candidates and one of them will be a major surprise and can quite easily knock off the NDP’s Scott Fraser.”
White is also confident about his part’s chances in Parksville-Qualicum.
“We have one possible candidate who still has to win the nomination, but if he does, he will be the next MLA,” he said. “There’s nothing the current incumbent can do about it. His time is done. I’m not saying the person doesn’t have to work hard at it, but the Liberal party is done.”
Once the party has all its candidates in place, White said the real action will begin.
“There is no taking prisoners,” he said. “We are going for the jugular — and we’ve planned well enough to know how to do it.”
One of the bellweather indicators, he said, will be the two provincial by-elections that must be held within six months.
“The Liberals will be hoping for a win in the by-election, but they are not going to get it,” he said. “The last thing they want is for the Conservatives to win it, because that’s the beginning of the end.”