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BC United Leader Falcon says new candidates reflect party’s ‘renewal’

Nine out of 26 current BC United caucus members won’t seek re-election
BC United Leader Kevin Falcon, here seen announcing Karen Long as the party’s candidate in Langley-Abbotsford, said his party’s candidates for the upcoming provincial election reflect a wide variety of backgrounds, while acknowledging the loss of several sitting MLAs who won’t be running again. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said he is “staggered and stunned” by the quality of candidates the party has been able to attract, while acknowledging the loss of several experienced MLAs who won’t be running in the next provincial election.

“I’m excited about the candidates we brought in,” he said. “I always hate losing good experienced people.”

Falcon made these comments Thursday, when he announced four housing policies, but also answered questions about the departure of Abbotsford-West MLA Mike de Jong, who had announced Wednesday that he won’t be seeking a ninth term while contemplating a run for federal office.

De Jong is now the ninth member of the current 26-member-strong BC United caucus to announce that he won’t be running for re-election.

Dan Ashton (Penticton), Karin Kirkpatrick (West Vancouver-Capilano), Greg Kyllo (Shuswap), Norm Letnick (Kelowna-Lake Country), Mike Morris (Prince George-Mackenzie), Ellis Ross (Skeena), Ben Stewart (Kelowna West) and Jordan Sturdy (West Vancouver-Sea To Sky) have also announced that they won’t be running again.

Familiar faces seeking re-election include Kamloops-area MLAs Todd Stone and Peter Milobar, Prince George-area MLA Shirley Bond, Dan Davies (Peace River North) and Elenore Sturko (Surrey-South).

RELATED: Rent-to-own program, tax cuts promised as BC United unveils housing platform

RELATED: Abbotsford MLA Mike de Jong to retire from provincial politics

RELATED: Ellis Ross leaves BC United to run for federal conservatives

The decision of nine sitting MLAs not to run has raised questions about the electoral prospects of BC United, formerly known as BC Liberals.

Several polls shows B.C.’s official opposition in third place behind the front-running New Democrats and the second-place Conservative Party of BC, whose caucus consists of two MLAs (John Rustad, Bruce Banman) once part of Falcon’s caucus.

RELATED: BC NDP maintaining a sizeable lead in latest polls

RELATED: Conservative thinking: B.C. party hopes to capitalize on growing momentum

RELATED: BC United ‘don’t stand a chance’ if they can’t win in Fraser Valley: prof

Looming behind the polls is a scenario that sees New Democrats not only winning the election, but winning most of the 93 seats, with BC United and the Conservative Party of BC splitting the so-called free-enterprise coalition. Such an outcome would be a reversal of 2001, when the BC Liberals won 77 out of 79 seats in reducing New Democrats to two seats and ushering in 16 years of BC Liberal rule.

Of note was the unwillingness of New Democratic incumbents to enter the electoral fray in 2001. Of the 39 incumbents, 15 decided against another run. But it is also important to point out that circumstances facing the NDP in 2001 as a governing party were different than those facing BC United as an opposition party.

Falcon has consistently down-played polls pointing toward a reverse 2001 scenario. He argues British Columbians are not yet paying attention with the election still 10 months away, adding his party is the only viable alternative to replace New Democrats in government. He made that point again Thursday.

“I’m not running to be an MLA, I’m running to be premier of this province…because I’m concerned about the direction of this province,” he said.

He also played up his new candidates, describing them as part of a transformation.

“Remember, when I first took over this party, I made it clear that I was going to bring change to this party and renewal and that includes attracting new candidates that represent youth, more women, more diversity, a resounding skill set in terms of their occupational backgrounds,” he said.

If personnel is policy, BC United seems poised to make health care a defining issue. Falcon highlighted the addition of 42-year-old Dr. Claudine Storness-Bliss running in Surrey-Cloverdale, and Dr. Michael Humer, former head of surgery at Kelown General Hospital, in the riding of Kelowna-Centre.

RELATED: Less than 1 in 3 residents say B.C. is handling health care well: survey

Falcon described Storness-Bliss as “just an outstanding candidate,” who is “prepared to roll up her sleeves and help us fix our health care system.” Humer, Falcon said, is leaving for politics at the “top of his game”, wanting to fix the health care.

Other candidates highlighted by Falcon include Lawyer Puneet Sandhar running in the riding of Surrey-Serpentine River, Coun. Stephen Johnston running in the riding of West Kelowna–Peachland after having topped the municipal polls in West Kelowna, political science PhD candidate Caroline Elliott running in West Vancouver-Capilano and union-card carrying locomotive engineer Keenan Adams in Port Coquitlam.

These are young, dynamic individuals from various backgrounds, Falcon said.

Overall, BC United has 39 announced candidates so far.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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