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If Election Is Called, BC Conservatives Ready to Pounce on Liberal Flip-Flops

Party is actively seeking a leader to counter Libs’ ‘fiscal irresponsibility,’ says director.

By Andrew MacLeod 27 Jun 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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‘They’ve shifted to fiscal irresponsibility,’ says BC Conservative Party director Scott Anderson of the governing BC Liberals, opening space for his party.

BC Conservative Party director Scott Anderson says that if there’s a snap election, his party will be ready to take advantage of the BC Liberal Party’s post-election flip-flops on dozens of issues.

“They’ve shifted to fiscal irresponsibility,” Anderson said in a phone interview. “They’ve taken their mask off.”

The Liberal government’s new commitments set out in last week’s throne speech — supported by numerous Liberal MLAs in the legislature this week — included $1 billion for childcare and early childhood education, raising social assistance rates, income support for young people aging out of government foster care, legal aid funding, eliminating MSP premiums, getting rid of bridge tolls, more money for transit, fully funding adult basic education, doubling arts spending and more.

The speech was a direct appeal for Green and NDP support in the legislature, but Anderson said it also gave his BC Conservative Party lots of room to present an alternative to the Liberals from the other side of the political spectrum.

“It’s quite clear their agenda is pursuit of power and no particular ideological view,” said Anderson, who is also a Vernon city councillor. “They don’t really stand for anything. They stand for whatever they think will get them votes.”

In the May 9 election, Conservative candidates ran in only 10 constituencies and the party had no leader during the campaign. Despite the disorganization, Leah McCullouch won 2,000 votes as a Conservative in the Courtenay-Comox district, enough to make a difference in a race the Liberal candidate lost by fewer than 200 votes.

Anderson said the Conservatives would have a leader before the next election. The party has an annual general meeting scheduled for late September and a leadership convention would follow that, he said.

Meanwhile, if there’s an election sooner, the board can appoint a leader. Ahead of the May election the board interviewed several potential leaders, but failed to find one they could support. Prospects have since improved, said Anderson.

“We’ve got some potential interim leaders that the board finds acceptable, shall we say,” he said. “That’s a contingency plan.”

The party has also been rebuilding its riding associations and is working on a new “cutting edge” website, Anderson said. “[We’re] getting the ground ready so when we have an elected leader, he or she can hit the ground running.”

Hamish Marshall, most recently the campaign manager for Andrew Scheer’s successful run to lead the federal Conservatives, was involved in the provincial party up until 2012.

“I think it’s going to be a tough slog,” Marshall said in a phone interview from Toronto where he now lives, adding the BC Conservatives need both a new leader and a consistent message.

By the time there’s another election, the Liberals will doubtless be back to promoting positions that better contrast with the NDP and Greens, Marshall said. They would also benefit from a possible leadership race that would distract from anything the BC Conservatives might do, he said.

And while the Liberals may have had policies in government that aggravated conservatives, he said, “It’s easier to make the case there should be one right-of-centre party when you’re in opposition.”

The BC Liberals won 43 of the legislature’s 87 seats in the May election, giving the party the most seats but not enough to win a vote over the combined 41 NDP and three Green MLAs. BC Liberal leader Christy Clark remains premier until she resigns or loses a vote in the legislature.

The government, which lost two routine votes in the legislature Monday, is on track to face a confidence vote at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. It will then be up to Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon to decide whether NDP leader John Horgan will be given a chance to form a government or to send the province to another election.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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