Few have officially declared but potential candidates range from veteran MLAs to an anti-establishment right-wing YouTuber

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The B.C. Liberal leadership race will be a battle for the soul of a party which insiders say is in desperate need of renewal after October’s crushing election defeat to the NDP.

With 11 months until the leadership vote, few have officially declared they are running. But potential candidates include party faithful and an anti-establishment right-wing YouTuber vowing to fight attempts to block him from the race.

Meanwhile, Kevin Falcon, finance minister in Christy Clark’s government, has already been crowned the one to beat. Reached on Thursday, Falcon said he’s giving the leadership bid “lots of thought” but “it’s still in the early stages.”

Falcon, an executive for a Vancouver-based real estate developer and private equity firm, is said to be building a team behind him that includes Dianne Watts, the former Surrey mayor who was unsuccessful in her 2018 challenge against former Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson.


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Kevin Falcon is reportedly putting together a high-powered team as he considers running for the B.C. Liberal leadership.
Kevin Falcon is reportedly putting together a high-powered team as he considers running for the B.C. Liberal leadership. Photo by Jenelle Schneider /PNG

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, a former chief of the Haisla Nation, was the first person to declare his leadership run, promising a campaign free of personal attacks.

Liberal MLAs Renee Merrifield, Mike Morris, Mike Bernier, Tom Shypitka and Michael Lee have said they’re considering a bid for the leadership but none are ready to officially declare, likely to avoid offering themselves up as early political targets or losing momentum between now and the Feb, 5, 2022, leadership convention.

Conservative social media influencer Aaron Gunn and political strategist Gavin Dew are also possible candidates.

No possible candidacy has caused as much of a stir as Gunn’s. He has been dismissed by some longtime Liberals as a fringe candidate. Liberal strategist Mark Marissen labelled Gunn as “alt-right” and said on Twitter he should not be approved by the party.

Gunn dismisses that characterization, saying he’s a small c-conservative who supports “common sense policy that respects taxpayers.”

“The only people opposing my candidacy are a small group of political operatives who are completely out of touch with British Columbians. They’re trying to protect the enclaves of power they carved out for themselves,” said Gunn, a former contributor to conservative social media site B.C. Proud. He previously headed the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s “generation screwed” campaign which promoted fiscally conservative policies to young people.


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The leadership rules contain a new clause that states that candidates must “conduct themselves and their campaigns in a manner so as not to bring the party into disrepute.”

Interim leader Shirley Bond said she’s confident the leadership campaign will attract a variety of views and a broad slate of candidates. Bond, who is not running, said she will not endorse any particular candidate.

Renee Merrifield, who said she’s “seriously considering” the leadership run, said in a big tent party made up of conservatives and centrists, “there’s always space and room for diversity of thought. But I would say it’s not for throwing bombs and watching them blow up. It’s not about creating divisions, it’s not about the shock and awe. It’s about creating unity.”

Katy Merrifield, a political strategist who ran Wilkinson’s leadership campaign in 2018, said the party must redefine its identity, principles and values if it wants to remain relevant with British Columbians. The party has failed, she said, to take a strong stance on important social issues such as the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights.

During the election campaign, Wilkinson faced revolt from inside the party for his reluctance to expel Laurie Throness after homophobic remarks and for chuckling along during a Zoom gathering as then-MLA Jane Thornthwaite made sexist comments about NDP MLA Bowinn Ma.

Bernier, MLA for Peace River South, acknowledged the party must work to regain public trust and decide what the party will look like in the future.


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“With the results of the last election, it’s pretty obvious not everyone is happy with what we’re doing,” he said. The B.C. Liberals were reduced to 28 seats in the October election as the NDP picked up former Liberal strongholds in urban and suburban areas across the Lower Mainland, largely leaving the Liberals relegated to rural seats in the Interior and Northern B.C.

Bernier said the last thing the party needs in a leader is a “knight on a white horse who thinks they can come in and save us. I want to make sure the party is listening to the public — we shape our ideas based on what people want and we find the right leader to fit in with that.”

Morris, the Liberal MLA Prince George-Mackenzie, wanted the new leader installed by the fall to allow more time to build a strong profile before the 2024 election. “We need to create a vision and get people invigorated and have people see themselves in what the party stands for,” he said.

Dew, who worked on Lee’s leadership bid in 2018 and on Falcon’s leadership run against Clark in 2011, said the leadership race will be a chance to attract a new generation of voters and bring back supporters who have drifted away.

“I think (the Liberal party) has fallen into the trap of talking about the economy in terms of numbers and charts and balanced budgets and taxes,” Dew said. “And I think we need to regain our ability to talk in human terms and talk about helping families.”

Jas Johal, the former Liberal MLA who lost his Richmond-Queensborough seat in October, has ruled out a leadership bid. Johal said it’s crucial that the party embraces diversity and becomes more progressive on social issues such as racial justice, mental health and addiction.

“The party needs to renew to reflect the diversity of this province,” Johal said. “The mindset is still an older mindset that has not yet come to grips with the demographic shifts in this province.”



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