BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson leaves the stage after announcing he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Too rural, not enough diversity, soul searching needed, say BC Liberals

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count

British Columbia’s Liberal party should view the election results as a wake-up call from voters who punished the free-enterprise coalition for refusing to renew itself in changing times, say former and current members of the legislature.

The Liberals lost up to a dozen seats and finished a distant second to the New Democrats who will form a majority government.

The election revealed the party’s declining support in Metro Vancouver and its failure to recognize the needs of middle-class families, said Jas Johal, who was the Liberal member for Richmond-Queensborough until his defeat in Saturday’s election.

The Liberals also must do better when it comes to reflecting and supporting diversity and the rights of LGBTQ-plus people and others, he said in an interview.

“When you think you can convert somebody who is gay to a heterosexual life, I think that’s absurd,” said Johal, referring to former Liberal Laurie Throness who placed advertisements in a magazine supporting conversion therapy.

Throness quit as the Liberal candidate in Chilliwack Kent during the election after comparing free contraception to eugenics at an all-candidates meeting. He continued to run as an Independent and was trailing NDP rival Kelli Paddon by fewer than 200 votes with mail-in ballots still to be counted.

Elections BC says there are about 600,000 mail-in and absentee ballots across the province still to count, so the final result in some ridings could change.

Johal said the Liberals chose to lick their wounds after the 2017 election when they should have embraced renewal after winning more seats and votes than the NDP but found themselves out of power when the Greens helped the New Democrats form a minority government.

“So in 2020, B.C. voters inflicted renewal on the party and that’s what you’re seeing now,” he said. “When you lose the amount of seats that we did in what was once solid B.C. Liberal territory, it’s a wake-up call. To be very blunt, B.C. voters took us to the back of the barn and gave us a thumping.”

Johal’s comments came a few hours before Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announced on Monday that he will step down as party leader as soon as a successor is chosen. Wilkinson said his announcement starts the “challenging and exciting process of rebuilding the party.”

READ MORE: Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Mike Bernier, a former Liberal cabinet minister, said the party will have to do a lot of soul searching after Saturday’s election defeat.

The Liberals must find ways to keep the party’s Liberal and Conservative supporters together to maintain a united front to counter the NDP, he said.

Bernier, who was re-elected in his Peace River South riding, said now may be the time to change the name of the party, which has no affiliation with the federal Liberals.

“In a big part of the province, a lot of the challenges are around the party name,” he said, adding that past calls to change the name were not supported by its members.

Bernier said the Liberals were dejected following their loss of power in 2017 and renewal was not being considered, but it will be now.

“We need to look at our policies. We need to look at our vision and we need to look at what we can offer the people of B.C. as an alternative to the NDP,” he said.

Johal said the Liberals must examine how they surrendered the urban vote to the NDP over the years.

The NDP won traditional Liberal seats in Vancouver, Surrey and even the Fraser Valley, he noted.

“Those ridings, especially the Fraser Valley, Richmond, that was the wall,” Johal said. “That’s where our support would never waver and now it has. It speaks to the fundamental need for the party to renew and speak to a new generation of voters.”

He said a modern and renewed Liberal party must focus on more than just cutting taxes. It must speak to the needs of people, especially those in Metro Vancouver.

“It can’t just all be about sawmills and LNG and an industrial economy,” Johal said. “We’re not having that broader modern conversation. We’ve got to start talking that urban language.”

Prof. Sanjay Jeram, who teaches political science at Simon Fraser University, said the Liberals must maintain the right and centre coalition by continuing to keep the party as the voice of fiscal conservatives, and supporters of entrepreneurs and small business.

“In some ways the election might be a silver lining with only 29 or 30 seats, because they are going to have a lot of new candidates next time,” he said.

Johal said the Liberals should consider the next four years as an opportunity to get things right.

“It’s a tough, hard slog but we’ve got four years and that’s a long enough period to rebuild this party.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC LiberalsBC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Heath has issued an overdose advisory for Campbell River. If someone has overdosed, administering naloxone can help. File photo
Overdose advisory issued for Campbell River

People using drugs advised to protect themselves

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Bill C-283 would establish a National Food Waste Awareness Day. File photo
Anti-Food Waste bill introduced by North Island-Powell River MP

Bill would establish awareness day, ask Minister of Agriculture to work towards ending food waste

This 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 was stolen from Black Creek Motors at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday, April 11. Photos via blackcreekmotors.com
VIDEO: Thieves steal truck from Black Creek car lot by towing it away

Have you seen a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 in your neighbourhood in… Continue reading

Police pup in training: Nugget. RCMP photo
Police Service Dog Nugget gets golden opportunity to learn with veteran Gator

Newest recruit to train with Campbell River RCMP service dog and handler

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)
Grey whale off Vancouver Island develops lesions after being tagged, researchers monitor its condition

Canadian and U.S. whale experts administered antibiotics to the animal on March 31, April 1

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a box containing doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
EXPLAINER: What’s known about COVID vaccines and rare clots

These are not typical blood clots – they’re weird in two ways

A man sustained burns to his body near this spot around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 13 in Courtenay. The fire was left of the pathway. The Station youth housing facility and city public works yard are to the right of the trail. Photo by Terry Farrell
Man catches fire sleeping while outdoors in downtown Courtenay

Firefighters say man still burning when they arrived after he fell asleep next to his fire

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Observers ‘gutted’ as pair filmed removing red dresses hung along B.C. highway

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Indigenous Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Most Read