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Falcon launches leadership bid with promise to lead decisively

Kevin Falcon launched his bid to head the British Columbia Liberal Party with a promise to listen, learn and lead.

“It is time for a new generation of leadership,” he said at an event held at the Surrey museum.

As leader he would be guided by three principles, Falcon said. “Listen to people, learn from people and then lead . . . And lead decisively.”

Falcon said he agreed with leadership candidate George Abbott that the date for the HST vote should be moved up to June 24. He said he would be circulating a letter later this week for leadership candidates to sign encouraging the premier and cabinet to take steps with Elections B.C. to move up the date.

He said he thinks the HST is good policy but was introduced badly. He stressed that as premier he would respect the will of the majority of voters, but that the vote would be an opportunity for informed and honest debate on the tax.

He mused about the possibility of lowering the HST to 10 percent, with a one percent reduction from its current 12 percent in 2011 and a second reduction when government revenues were high enough to do it.

Falcon stressed the importance of the Pacific Gateway and trade with Asia. He spoke about turning the existing “cultural bridges” between the province and Asia into an economic bridge. Students would have more options to learn languages other than French and English, he said.

He suggested he supported creating “seamless childcare options” that could use the existing schools to offer services from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m..

He also said he agrees with raising the minimum wage, in consultation with business. The $8 an hour rate has not gone up since 2001. “If we were smart we should have adjusted it to inflation,” he said.

Falcon, who resigned as health minister so he could run for the leadership, said he sees the value of the public health care system. “We do need a strong, innovative, viable public health care system,” he said. But to preserve it “we must never be afraid to innovate.”

Asked about former cabinet minister and radio talk show host Christy Clark entering the race, Falcon said he welcomes her but that she needs to commit to sticking around. “We want her to commit to staying, win or lose.”

Cabinet ministers at Falcon's launch were Labour Minister Iain Black, Children and Family Development Minister Mary Polak, Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux and Minister of State for Climate Action John Yap.

Other MLAs in attendance were Dave Hayer (Surrey-Tynehead), Rob Howard (Richmond Centre), Douglas Horne (Coquitlam-Burke Mountain), John Les (Chilliwack), Joan McIntyre (West Vancouver-Sea to Sky) and Ron Cantelon (Parksville-Qualicum).

Also there were senator Gerry St. Germain and former cabinet minister Bill Reid.

“I've seen Kevin emerge from being a feisty young man to a passionate leader in our caucus,” said Cantelon.

Cadieux said it was Falcon who got her into politics and he has shown by example how to be a great MLA. “We are going to have an exciting future with Kevin Falcon.”

Falcon has another press event scheduled today at dinner time in Prince George.

The leadership vote will be held Feb. 26, with the winner replacing outgoing Premier Gordon Campbell.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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