The BC Liberal riding association for Powell River-Sunshine Coast hosted leadership candidate Michael Lee for a meet and greet in Sechelt last weekend.
Lee, the rookie MLA for Vancouver-Langara, is one of eight candidates in the running to replace Christy Clark, who resigned after the party was defeated in a confidence vote in June.
“We have to get past the last election in May. We need to build a stronger party, a stronger team for the next election,” Lee said before speaking to a crowd of about two-dozen party members at Buccaneers Restaurant. “We need to do things differently. I believe that the BC Liberal Party needs to renew itself and it needs to change. It needs to be more balanced in the way it communicates and connects with people around this province.”
Although he’s in his first term as an MLA, Lee has a long history in politics through behind-the-scenes roles with the former Progressive Conservative party federally and the BC Liberals.
During a Q&A, Lee touched on a couple of issues being followed by many on the Sunshine Coast. On Site C, Lee said he supports the project, but thinks too much focus has been on the jobs that could be created and not the other, possibly stronger, arguments for moving ahead.
“W.A.C. Bennett had a great vision back in the ’50s… We need to complete that infrastructure. I know there’s concern around the cost and the environmental impact of that project, but I believe as we want to attract people to this province and transition to a lower carbon economy, we need Site C.”
When asked about plans for an electoral reform referendum, Lee said: “I’m not in favour of proportional representation. I’m concerned that, depending on the model that’s being presented, we will have fewer representatives in the house… I’m concerned about smaller representation because you have a situation where three members of any party, like the Green Party, can basically dictate what our government looks like.”
He also said the proposed 50 per cent threshold for a referendum could, arguably, put rural B.C. at a disadvantage when it comes to having a say on electoral reform.
The Liberals will vote for their new leader over three days starting Feb. 1, 2018.
Lee said whoever wins needs to be on an election footing from day one. “Any leadership candidate in this race needs to be ready to fight the next election after Feb. 3. The premier and the NDP will also be looking for the best opportunity to win a majority government.”
Lee said any number of things could trigger an election before the scheduled date, such as tensions within the NDP/Green alliance or the defeat of the NDP’s first budget.
The other candidates vying to lead the party are: former finance minister Mike de Jong; former transportation minister Todd Stone; former Surrey mayor and Conservative MP Dianne Watts; Lucy Sager, a business owner from Terrace; Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan; Andrew Wilkinson, MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena; and former Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal.