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What's next for B.C. Conservatives?

Former MP Randy White speaks to The NEWS in an exclusive interview

ven though he served on a committee to help the B.C. Conservatives find their way out of the wilderness prior to the last provincial election, Randy White says the outcome of the vote was correct.

In an exclusive interview, White, who served as a federal MP for both the Reform and Conservative parties, said he was not disappointed with the electoral result, despite his party being shut out of the legislature.

The NEWS: What  happened to the Conservatives in the last election?

White: The public got scared. First of all, the party had its difficulty with a number of eggheads who cared more about themselves than the politics of the province. That was kind of a warning that there are still some ripples in the water. Secondly, it always comes down to the same thing in this province: the devil you know or the devil you don't know. We had a choice between bad and worse, along with another party that was a question mark. When you have those three choices, people said we are in too delicate a situation to go with a question mark, so they voted Liberal.

The NEWS: What do you see in the future for the B.C. Conservatives?

White: The Conservatives came to a point in the election where they were acknowledged as a party. They have the infrastructure now and they will build from that. There has been talk about sitting down and getting together with the Liberals, but this is just talk. I don't think that's going to happen. The Liberals don't have to do that anymore. But the province is going to be faced at some point with the same dilemma. The Liberals aren't going to be as good as gold forever and at some point people are once again going to have to choose between bad and worse again.

The NEWS: Is there a need for the B.C. Conservatives?

White: I believe deep down that this province desperately needs an alternative. We are getting the same quandry every four years, so I think it's good for the province that the Conservatives build. As much as the Liberals at this time think they are safe with their majority, they are not. They are only safe because the province only had two alternatives. With a new leader and a different set of circumstances, there will again be an opportunity for people of B.C. to vote Conservative. I don't have a problem with more parties. I have a problem with there being only two parties.

The NEWS: How long do you think it could be before the Conservatives are a true force to be reckoned with?

White: Rome wasn't built in a day. To me, this election was probably the right outcome. The province didn't take a chance on an up and coming party with no experience and they elected what they felt was the best alternative, but in doing so, I think, rather than weakness, they have given Conservatives strength in knowing they can be a player if they do it right.

The NEWS: How much blame do you think former leader John Cummins has to take for the result?

White: The leader always takes it. A leader has that responsibility. I don't know if you can allocate a percentage of that to anybody, but when you are a leader, you are the one who takes the fall. I don't think John (Cummins) would see it differently from that. He tried, he did his best and now it's time for somebody else.

The NEWS: There's a rumour that Dr. David Coupland might be interested in the leadership. How do you think he would do?

White: If Coupland goes for it, he would be a good leader. He's a thoughtful person. I've seen a lot of politicians and he would fit right up there with the better of them. He could do a very credible job. However, it takes more than one David Coupland to get elected. You need to have good people in every single riding. You have to be visible and show people you have the qualifications and abilities to do the job. If they get selfish, and people that voters see as undesireable, it won't work.

The NEWS: You said the outcome was correct. What did you mean?

White: It was quite easy to see they needed time, which they didn't have.

The NEWS: So what is it going to take?

White: The Conservatives have to replace the question mark with an exclamation point. They have to demonstrate they are good and they know what they are doing. That's their challenge and they have three years to do it. The Liberals can't sit back and think they are safe with their majority. I wouldn't make that mistake if I were them.