Martin van den Hemel
Ex-Surrey Mayor and former MP Dianne Watts is hoping to bring her consensus-building skills to the legislature in Victoria as head of the BC Liberal Party.
Watts was in Richmond Monday afternoon to drum up support for her leadership bid.
At Mayfair Lakes Golf Club, Watts told supporters there was a simple explanation for the BC Liberals inability to form government during the last election despite five balanced budgets, a AAA credit rating and the best job growth in the country.
“How do you lose an election with that platform? Well you lose it because you stop listening.”
Aside from the fact the NDP is now in power, Watts said there’s an impending referendum on proportional representation.
“That is really concerning to me,” Watts said. “It really brings the power and focuses the power on the urban centres which is Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria…”
The trouble with that, she said, is that the entire province is very different, and there’s different issues in each area.
With proportional representation, there’s a “lot of horse trading going on” and Watts said it took 521 days to form government in Belgium.
“In British Columbia, one of the things we did really well was attract investment. I can tell you right now, with proportional representation, we are not going to see what we’ve seen in the past,” she said, referring to unstable governments. “That is a significant concern to me.”
Watts said she’s got an amazing team around her, and that she’s won seven straight elections, and she plans to continue that streak.
Watts said she’s best suited for the job because of her track record of leading a government and bringing people together, building a coalition and ensuring community engagement was front and centre, as she did in Surrey while mayor.
The B.C. Liberals are the free enterprise party, she said.
“We support innovation and entrepreneurship, we are fiscally responsible, and we’re socially progressive. And all of those elements are the best thing for British Columbia.”
During the last provincial election, the Liberals didn’t listen to the public’s voice when it came to the building of schools and the use of portable classrooms, housing affordability, and the assessment of tolls at bridges.
“When you look at putting a tax on housing without anything else accompanying it, it’s not going to fix the problem. It’s not a silver bullet,” she said.
A comprehensive housing strategy is needed, one that can dovetail with the federal housing strategy.
Watts said she resigned her seat in Parliament at the end of September so she could focus 100 per cent of her time to the task of leading the B.C. Liberals.
“There was no way I could have one foot in Ottawa and one foot in British Columbia.”