Former Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon is running for BC Liberal Party leadership. (Contributed photo)

Kevin Falcon: Move to remove rural riding protections ‘a terrible disservice’

BC Liberal Leadership contender Kevin Falcon was in Kootenay East this week

BC Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon was in Fernie last week as part of tour around the provinces ridings to earn the votes of party members.

Falcon is in the running to replace former party leader Andrew Wilkinson, and is running against another four candidates – two of which are current MLAs in the provincial legislature.

Speaking to community members at the Fernie Hotel, Falcon talked about the need to de-centralize some decisions back down to a more regional level, concerns around the upcoming electoral boundary review and its impact on regional representation, childcare, housing and more.

”The key message I’m trying to get across to voters is the importance of a total reboot of the party – by reboot I mean re-branding potentially with a new name, making sure we’re focusing on issues that matter to voters like $10 a day daycare, the environment, housing affordability with real solutions – those are the issues I’m really focused on.”

Falcon took aim at the NDP government’s plan to remove rural protection for rural ridings in the next electoral boundary review – a plan he said was “a terrible disservice to communities that already struggle to have their voices heard.”

According to Falcon, the removal a provision in electoral boundary legislation that ensures a minimum number of rural ridings in each region (there are 17 that are protected) would also lead to MLAs having difficulty covering their ridings which would likely increase in size, as more ridings were concentrated in urban centres.

He committed to bringing back that provision if he were Premier.

“We don’t want a situation where rural voices and rural issues get drowned out by the louder voices.”

READ MORE: B.C. election law could add 6 seats, remove rural protection

He also spoke about local decision-making, touching on a need to decentralize parts of the government on wildlife management, roads and healthcare to ensure more responsiveness to local issues instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

“There has to be some level or regionality for sure, but it’s the local responsiveness at literally the hospital level that is breaking down from what I am hearing. … there can be a better job done ensuring local responsiveness.

He also spoke about the benefits of focusing on childcare as an economic issue rather than a social one, saying that affordable daycare was a pillar of his message as a candidate.

“It’s a great economic program,” he said, explaining that by allowing young parents to return to the workforce without prohibitive daycare expenses, the economy was better off overall even with government subsidization.

On housing affordability, Falcon said that he was a believer in pushing through more supply on to the market to force competition between developers, and allow prices to come down.

Falcon, who is not a sitting MLA, left the provincial parliament in 2013 for the private sector.

He had represented the suburban riding of Surrey-Cloverdale, and said that he had not yet decided what seat he would run for at the next provincial election due for 2024.

“But I promise you this – it’ll be an NDP held seat, because what I want to do is make sure we win back a seat for the BC Liberals – whether it’s in North Van where I currently live, or whether it’s in Surrey – we’ll see.”

Falcon’s former seat was won by the governing NDP during the most recent election in 2020, which saw many longtime BC Liberal seats swept up in an orange wave across the Lower Mainland.

So far, Falcon has been endorsed by four sitting BC Liberal MLAs – two representing Lower Mainland ridings, and two representing Interior ridings. Another candidate, MLA for Northern BC riding Skeena, Ellis Ross, has been endorsed by one fellow Northern BC MLA. Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee is also in the running, meaning seven BC Liberal MLAs have either thrown their hat in the ring or endorsed a candidate.

There are 28 members of the BC Liberal caucus. The election will take place on February 5 next year.

Local Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka is yet to endorse any candidate, but he attended two meet-and-greets with Kevin Falcon in Cranbrook this week.

READ MORE: Falcon’s vision is a “root and branch reboot” of BC Liberals

READ MORE: Boundary review could impact rural representation: Shypitka
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