EDITORIAL: Watts shares what’s up with Liberals

Those asking “What’s up” with the B.C. Liberal party in the wake of this year’s election loss to the NDP/Green team of John Horgan and Andrew Weaver are beginning to get some answers as the Liberal leadership race moves into high gear.

Dianne Watts, one of the high-profile candidates who has thrown her hat into the ring, shared some of her views with an audience of nearly 50 people at Parksville’s Rod & Gun club Sunday afternoon.

The stop, part of a Vancouver Island tour, came just as Horgan passed the 100-day mark as B.C.’s latest premier. As far as Watts is concerned, that’s plenty long enough.

While she dropped no bombshells, Watts may have raised an eyebrow or two with her prescription to remedy Horgan’s occupation of the premier’s desk.

“The B.C. Liberal Party is a free-enterprise party. We support job growth; we support innovation,” Watts acknowledged. “But you know what? We also have to have a social conscience. A progressive social conscience that brings in all of the elements around how we work with communities. And the environment.”

No, Watts is not positioning the Liberals to flank the B.C. Green Party on its left. But she recognizes the Liberals will need to peel away some voters with an encompassing message that invites young people to come aboard — not simply to carry ballots to the box, but to bring their voices and ideas to the table.

A three-term mayor of Surrey, Watts went on to win a seat in Parliament for the federal Conservatives in the 2016 election — then gave up the seat to run for the B.C. Liberal leadership after Christy Clark stepped down following the NDP’s ascension to power last summer.

She has never served in the provincial legislature, but Watts sounded like a veteran Liberal campaigner in her stops in Port Alberni and Parksville last weekend.

Like the vast majority of Liberals, Watts remains convinced her party had the best platform during this spring’s election. But it may have fallen victim to opposition messaging claiming the party was simply a handmaiden to big business and the well-heeled, and had lost touch with the “regular” citizens of British Columbia.

The Liberals, of course, actually won more seats than the NDP did in May’s provincial election. But Watts recognizes full well that the party did surrender 11 seats, hardly the achievement of a party with the backing of the people.

Winning the leadership vote in February is only step one. Then comes the real work of assembling and holding together a party through a message that goes beyond political rhetoric.

If she can do all that, “Watts up” may be an answer rather than a question.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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