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Falcon swoops into Peace Region

Leadership candidate Kevin Falcon addressed a packed room of B.C. Liberal supporters in Fort St. John Monday, making him the only candidate to make a second visit to the riding thus far. Falcon has spent considerable time campaigning in B.C.

Leadership candidate Kevin Falcon addressed a packed room of B.C. Liberal supporters in Fort St. John Monday, making him the only candidate to make a second visit to the riding thus far.

Falcon has spent considerable time campaigning in B.C.'s most rural and remote ridings, banking on a proposed change to the way the party elects its leader.

Delegations will be traveling to Vancouver for the Feb.12 convention where they will vote on whether or not to introduce new voting rules that give all 85 ridings equal weight, as opposed to the current system of one member, one vote.

If the party decides to stick with the status quo, Falcon will have wasted considerable time and money campaigning throughout the province's sparsely populated hinterland.

However, Falcon told the assembled crowd that he only wants to be the premier if every riding has a hand in electing him.

"I don't want to win if the new rule doesn't pass," said Falcon, "I don't want to be the leader of this party if we can't get the support from all the regions, including the Peace and the Kootenays."

Falcon acknowledged the rumblings of party members from the Lower Mainland who denounce the change as undemocratic, but said he was optimistic that weighted votes will pass.

"Every delegate at every selection meeting that I've been to has been in favour," said Falcon.

The convention will also consider introducing electronic and telephone voting for the leadership race, which Falcon speculated could result in a leadership race where more voters than ever before have a say in who becomes the party's leader.

Furthermore, there are more new members than the party had expected to sign up at the outset of the race. The party initially predicted doubling its membership, however, the six candidates have signed up more than 50,000 new members, swelling the party's ranks to 90,000 British Columbians.

Falcon alone claims to have attracted 18,000 new members, coming just shy of Christy Clark, who has said she signed up 20,000.

"I've never seen so much change in such a short amount of time. First there was the Premier's abrupt resignation, followed by a proposal to completely change how we elect our leader and then the NDP imploded - which is something no one saw coming," commented Falcon, referring to the B.C. Liberals dramatic change in public support over the course of three and a half months.

Now that the party has finished its membership drive, Falcon said he's going to focus his attention on going out to the ridings and persuading members that he's the right candidate for the job.

"Members have to ask themselves who's the best. Who's the person that's best going to lead caucus and has its demonstrated support? Which person is going to keep the coalition together?"

He said that he wants to do that by opening up the debate structure to give members an opportunity to evaluate all of the candidates.

"We need to loosen up the structure so that candidates aren't sitting up there being introduced to topics and responding from a written speech," said Falcon, "At least that's something I don't do."

At the end of the meeting North Peace MLA Pat Pimm invited those members in the room who were prepared to pledge their support for Falcon to the front of the room for a photo.

More than half of the people in attendance left their chairs and crowded around the candidate who has already got the nod from Pimm and Senator Richard Neufeld.

One member that didn't think twice about throwing her support behind Falcon was Montana Currie.

"Kevin follows through, when he says things you know he's sincere, there's no fluff," said Currie.

She admitted that his greatest challenge will be to make sure party members judge him by his record.

"Our next leader can't just be the rah-rah type. The leader needs to be serious and follow through with their vision."

Pimm said that, judging by his constituents' eagerness to join Team Falcon, it's clear which candidate represents the North.

"It's a pretty good indication when we have 50 people in a room and 35 stand up it resonates pretty strongly that Falcon is the only person for this job."

Falcon stopped in Fort St. John as the third leg of his whirlwind northern tour where he also touched down in Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.