B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, centre, in Vancouver, on Aug. 29, 2012.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press
A lot has changed in B.C. politics since Kevin Falcon was a heavy hitter in successive Liberal governments.
And if, as anticipated, he wins the leadership of the BC Liberals early next month, he is going to see just how different it is.
The party held its final leadership debate this week, and Mr. Falcon was the consensus winner. He showed the most confidence in his answers. His ideas seemed the most considered. But perhaps more than anything, his experience running some of the most high-profile ministries, including Health and Finance, was impossible to ignore.
Especially against a field of contenders mostly notable for its lack of anyone notable.
Mr. Falcon was a protg of long-time Liberal premier Gordon Campbell his Mini-Me. He was rewarded for his fealty with high-profile ministries, which allowed him to build a reputation both among the public and the party. It was assumed he would one day be Mr. Campbells successor until Christy Clark narrowly beat Mr. Falcon in the party leadership race in 2011.
He became finance minister under Ms. Clark and acquitted himself well in the job. He chose not to run in the 2013 general election.
During the current leadership race, his rivals have attempted to dismiss him as a relic of the past, someone whose time has come and gone. That tag has had a difficult time sticking. Mr. Falcon has an exceptionally strong campaign team behind him, one that plays with its elbows up.
His campaign has not been without controversy, however. Late last year, he had to part ways with a senior member of his team after a misogynistic verbal attack in a bar on a member of a rival campaign. Mr. Falcons handling of the episode was not stellar and left as many questions as it answered.
Nevertheless, the incident does not appear to have hurt him much.
Most Liberals likely see him as their best hope of rebuilding the party and getting it back into power. He has pledged to explore changing the partys name to something more anodyne. The BC Liberals have always been a coalition of centrist liberals and moderate conservatives the latter never warming to the name.
Changing it would seem to be the least of Mr. Falcons worries.
If he is victorious, the first thing he will discover is that the party now in government is not the old NDP he liked to kick around as a cabinet minister, smugly sitting on the front benches with his colleagues, never imagining a day when they werent running the show.
John Horgan is an exceedingly popular premier, an Irish politician of high skills who has blossomed in the job. His recent cancer diagnosis may have an impact on whether he runs in the next election. But the New Democrats would not find themselves short of credible alternatives among a caucus notable for its intellectual depth and cultural diversity.
Something the Liberals are sorely lacking.
The New Democrats have become B.C.s urban party; the Liberals, the one that speaks for rural areas. That is not a sustainable political formula in a province that gets more urban by the year. There is likely to be a seat redistribution before the next election as well. Rural B.C. could lose one or two, while a similar number could be added to Metro Vancouver. This would play right into the New Democrats hands.
Mr. Falcons time away from the political scene could be detected in the final debate, particularly in his bewildering attempt to characterize the governing New Democrats as a cast of career underachievers who now have the best job theyll ever have and will do anything to hold onto it.
It didnt take long for the NDP to respond in a news release, eviscerating the Liberal leadership hopeful for mocking NDP MLAs who came from backgrounds that included teaching, policing, firefighting and farming.
It made Mr. Falcon look arrogant and out of touch, characteristics that ultimately came to define the Liberals in government the principal reason for their defeat in 2017 after 16 years in power.
The Liberals will cast their ballots on Feb. 5, using a preferential voting system. Members can mark their first, second, third choice and so on. Strange things have been known to happen under this system. Support for front-runners can stall after the first ballot, as momentum builds around an anyone-but-the-front-runner compromise candidate the longer the voting goes on.
Even if Mr. Falcon does win, however, the prize may not be as great as he thinks it is.
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