Vaughn Palmer: Falcon may be Liberal leadership front-runner, but that doesn’t mean party has embraced him – Vancouver Sun

Posted: October 1, 2021 at 7:42 am

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Opinion: Liberals should leave the past in the past where it belongs, declared Vancouver entrepreneur Gavin Dew, 37, taking aim at ex-cabinet minister Kevin Falcon, 58.

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VICTORIA The first debate of the B.C. Liberal leadership campaign was just getting underway this week when the youngest candidate in the field took a shot at the oldest.

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The Liberals should leave the past in the past where it belongs, declared Vancouver entrepreneur Gavin Dew, 37, taking aim at former cabinet minister Kevin Falcon, 58.

Later in Tuesdays debate, Dew honed the millennial versus boomer attack into the meanest laugh line of the night. In choosing the next leader, he said, the Liberals should think Netflix instead of rummaging in the discard bin at Blockbuster.

Dew wasnt the only candidate in the 90-minute debate, broadcast live on the Liberal website, to target Falcon in backhanded tribute to his front-runner status.

MLAs Michael Lee, Ellis Ross and Renee Merrifield questioned whether Falcon who sat out the last three provincial elections was all in for the next one.

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You are arguably doing this off the side of your desk, charged Lee, noting that Falcon hasnt stepped down from his executive position with Vancouver-based Anthem properties.

Falcon, no slouch in the corners, shot back that neither had the three MLAs taken leaves from their taxpayer supported day jobs.

That still left the question of whether Falcon would commit to run for the Liberals in the next provincial election, whether or not he wins the leadership. Fair question, given that Falcon himself made use of it when he ran against Christy Clark for the Liberal leadership in 2011.

In that race, Falcon was a senior minister in the then-Liberal government and Clark was in about the same position as Falcon is today. She had retired from the legislature in 2005, sat out the next election as well, pursued a successful career in radio, and only returned to the fray when the leadership became vacant with the pending departure of Gordon Campbell.

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So Falcon, whose rivalry with Clark dates to 1980s student politics at Simon Fraser University, challenged whether she would run for the Liberals in the next election even if she didnt win the leadership. As it happened, Clark won and it was Falcon who chose not to run in the 2013 election for what he now says were family reasons his wife was pregnant with their first child.

That decade-old backdrop of events sets up a rough exchange in Tuesdays debate regarding Falcons intentions this time.

In 2011, you promised to run again if you didnt win, but you broke that promise, challenged Merrifield. Will you run if you dont win this leadership race?

Falcon tried to brush off Merrifields version of what he had said during the race with Clark in 2011, claiming that he did not foreclose the opportunity of perhaps running again in the future.

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When it became Dews turn to speak, he pounced.

Kevin has forgotten what he said in 2011, Dew advised the online audience, fingering an apt bit of research with undisguised relish.

But Ill read it out for you, he continued, then did so, quoting Falcons challenge to Clark during the 2011 leadership race: Ive made a commitment to run in this election win or lose. Whether I win or lose Im going to be a candidate for this party.

It was as if Clark herself had materialized to swat Falcon up the side of the head.

Then, adding insult to injury, Dew added that as Falcon was unlikely to acknowledge the comment, he would move along and ask a question to one of the other candidates in the field.

A bit later, Merrifield nailed down what was obvious from the outset about Falcons intentions.

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Will you run in the next election if you dont win leadership? Yes or no? she challenged.

To be clear, no, said Falcon. Im running to be leader of the B.C. Liberal Party.

When party members cast their votes Feb. 5, do they want him, baggage and all?

Im proud of the fact that Ive bled for this party, says Falcon, inviting members to look at my record.

Lee, who finished third in the 2018 leadership and is probably running second in the current race, noted that the Liberal vote share has dropped by about 40 per cent over the last five elections.

Bragging about bridges we built in the past wont attract new voters, he declared, taking a swipe at Falcons resume, top heavy as it is with infrastructure projects like the new Port Mann Bridge (tolls included) and the Canada Line.

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Though Falcon continues to maintain that the Liberals got the big things right during their time in office, even he admits they missed major opportunities to boldly address issues like low-cost child care, housing affordability, mental health and the environment.

Later he would say that this party requires a reboot and a rebuild, and a potential rebranding.

The bit about rebranding was a glancing reference to his early call for the party to change its name, which provoked a sizable backlash, especially among Liberals who also count him as a Conservative and themselves as, well, liberals.

Still, Falcon entered the race as the front-runner and there he remains, as Tuesdays gang-up by the other candidates confirms.

But thats far from saying Liberals have embraced him as the way to recover the majority they squandered in 2017 and all the seats they lost in 2020.

vpalmer@postmedia.com

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Vaughn Palmer: Falcon may be Liberal leadership front-runner, but that doesn't mean party has embraced him - Vancouver Sun

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