Falcon reflects on first 10 months back in politics
It’s been quite the year for Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon who won the party’s leadership race in February after a decade away from politics.
Returning to public service — particularly as leader of the official Opposition and the largest party by membership in B.C. — wasn’t a decision Falcon took lightly.
With two young daughters, Falcon understood he wouldn’t be around for important everyday matters like taking them to school or putting them to bed. Despite this, he views family time as paramount and makes no apologies for carving out holiday time to be with his family, particularly around holidays such as Christmas or Halloween.
“That’s probably the most challenging part of my job,” he told BC Today in a year-end interview.
“But I’ve said from the very beginning that I came back to this job not because I needed the job, or because I wanted necessarily to be back in public life; it was more about thinking about their generation, that generation of children out there that deserves to have leadership in this province that’s focusing on getting better outcomes.”
His proudest accomplishments since being back in the legislature include getting the government to back down on its proposed $789-million “boondoggle” replacement project for the Royal BC Museum, Elenore Sturko being elected in the Surrey South byelection, and pressuring new Premier David Eby to reverse the controversial change to a hub model for autism funding.
Strengthening the party
Looking ahead, Falcon knows he needs to do more to refresh a party that has struggled since finishing in a dead heat with the NDP in the 2017 election and further losing power through a confidence and supply agreement between the NDP and Greens.
This is why he’s gone about pushing through a name change which was one of his key promises during the leadership campaign, with members eventually landing on BC United — a name that reminds some of a soccer club, but one that Falcon believes crucially represents the big tent nature of the party, bringing federal Liberals and Conservatives together.
When asked about those who see the removal of Liberal branding as a reflection of his seemingly friendly relations with federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, Falcon almost seemed to laugh.
“I was just at a Christmas party the other day with Jonathan Wilkinson, cabinet minister for the federal government,” he said. “We’re a coalition, we’ve always been a coalition that’s been open to federal Liberals, federal Conservative, lapsed NDP, even some Green Party folks. That’s not going to change with the name.”
Falcon said what matters to him are results and the belief that a private sector-driven economy is the best at getting them, not where people put him on the political spectrum.
He also said the party needs to improve when it comes to fundraising and diversity if it is going to mount a serious challenge in the next election.
He acknowledged that the party has fallen behind on fundraising under his leadership, being outpaced by the NDP at a rate of almost three to one, despite having a membership four times larger than the ruling party.
“I think that what you’ll see is when the Q4 financial results on fundraising are publicly released early in the new year, my goal is that we will outraise the NDP for the first time ever.”
As for diversity, Falcon said he has fond memories of the Liberal governments of Gordon Campbell which he said represented the province well with lots of female, South Asian, and Chinese MLAs.
He believes the party has failed to maintain and strengthen that diversity in the years since, and that if the Liberals are to gain seats in Metro Vancouver and show themselves to be a party for all British Columbians, they need to make it a primary focus.
“I think we’ve lost our way over the years. And we’ve got to get back to focusing on ensuring that we’ve got youth, women and diversity within our caucus,” explained Falcon. “That’s something that I intend to leave as my legacy.”
Management needed to solve tough issues
Falcon said he knows that large, intractable problems such as housing or health care can’t be solved with any single policy pronouncement, admitting that even if he were sworn in as premier right now it would be hard to make a meaningful dent in addressing these issues for at least a year.
But he believes his experience as a private sector executive gives him the experience and tools needed to make sure results are achieved.
“The NDP, I think their intentions were good. But they don’t know how to execute all those intentions to get the outcomes that we need,” he said.”It’s not just about adding bodies, it’s about establishing clear direction, and putting in place measurables that you want to see achieved, holding people to account to ensure they hit those targets. And then if they’re not getting those targets, you make sure that there’s an accountability loop back to those individuals.”
Moving into his first full calendar year as leader in January, the leader of the official Opposition is looking forward to continuing to hold the government to account, and be ready to contest an election — whether that be in two years or six months.
“I’m quite energized,” he said with a smile. “I want to see a party that’s going to be really well-funded, and that I have a great slate of candidates just raring to go for the next election.”