BC Liberal leadership candidate Dianne Watts, second from right, speaks with Jeff Cook from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations as others wait their turn at a meet and greet Saturday night in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

BC Liberal leadership candidate Dianne Watts, second from right, speaks with Jeff Cook from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations as others wait their turn at a meet and greet Saturday night in Port Alberni. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

BC Liberal leadership candidate stresses community in first Island stops

Dianne Watts continues tour in Victoria on Sunday, Oct. 29

Re-connecting with communities and coming up with a province-wide forestry strategy were two key points in BC Liberal leadership candidate Dianne Watts’ speech to party members in Port Alberni, Saturday night.

It was Watts’ first stop on her second tour of Vancouver Island since she announced in September that she would run for the provincial Liberal leadership, resigning her seat as Conservative MP for the South Surrey-White Rock riding. Watts won her federal seat in 2015, after serving as Surrey’s mayor for nearly a decade.

Watts told about 30 supporters gathered at Pastimes Sports Bar & Grill that healthy communities are at the crux of a healthy province.

“If your community’s not whole, this province is not whole,” she said. “It has to be…economically viable, there has to be jobs, there has to be growth in all different sectors. There has to be great education and there has to be a strong social fabric and social network to make sure we’re building strong, resilient communities.”

Better communication between municipal, provincial and federal governments is at the heart of the issue, she added, saying she hears about the disconnect between governments everywhere she travels.

One woman at the gathering said Vancouver Islanders’ issues seem to be ignored once election campaigns are finished, and Islanders retaliated by turning the Island into a sea of NDP orange. Watts agreed. “We lost the election because we didn’t listen and we need to start listening,” she said.

Chris Duncan, a board member of the Alberni Valley Community Forest, said the BC Liberals need to educate themselves on forestry issues such as the difficulty smaller contractors are having in dealing with larger forestry companies. “…Contractors are going broke,” while larger companies are making 18-per cent profits, he said.

Another retired forester said access to private lands now locked behind gates is an issue any potential leader needs to take seriously.

Watts was critical of the present-day government for their lack of an overall forestry plan for B.C. that deals with not only wildfire management but the closure of small mills and access to private lands as well.

“We’ve got to bring people together and have some tough conversations about how do we make this industry and this sector viable, sustainable and long term,” she said.

On Sunday, Watts resumed her tour with a one-hour stop in Parksville at the Rod & Gun bar and grill that drew nearly 50 guests.

After mingling with visitors, Watts shared a short address, then opened the floor for questions. She was asked to share her views and plans on topics including the gas tax, the future of the E&N Railway, the education budget, pending federal legislation on derelict vessels and proportional representation.

Watts continues her tour of the Island on Sunday in Victoria (4–5:30 p.m., Bard and Banker (1022 Government St.). She will also hold a morning event in Saanich from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 30 at Felicita’s Pub (3800 Finnerty Rd.).

She plans to visit 87 ridings before the party votes for its new leader.

The BC Liberal leadership seat became vacant when former leader Christy Clark resigned her seat on July 28, 10 days after NDP leader John Horgan supplanted her as premier of British Columbia.

Watts told the Port Alberni gathering that the party needs to figure out what its vision will be, and do it quickly. Above all, she added, the party needs to start listening to its constituents: “That we reconnect with voters, that we renew the party and that we really rebuild the trust that was lost. I mean the trust that was lost through the process of the Throne Speech. I hear over and over again, who are we as BC Liberals?” she said.

“I would say we are a free enterprise party, we have a social conscience and when we have a foundation that we have built on the economic values of job growth and job creation—No. 1 in the country—that is a great foundation, but it’s got to be meaningful to the communities.

“We have one chance to get it right,” she said. “If we don’t, if we don’t make the right decisions on this front, we’re going to be in opposition for an awful long time.”

In Parksville, the veteran campaigner said B.C. citizens would be hearing from a number of candidates in the leadership race, but that one question should be prominent in voters’ minds.

“I think this party has to choose a leader that can win the next election,” Watts said. “What I would suggest is to look at each single candidate; look at the qualities of leadership, the qualities of connectedness and understanding. But also asking the question, ‘Can this person win the next election?’

“Because that’s what it’s all about.”

Members of the BC Liberal Party will vote for their new leader Feb. 1, 2 and 3, 2018. Anyone wanting to get in on the vote must become a member of the party by Dec. 29, 2017.

Six leadership debates will be planned in the upcoming weeks for Surrey, Prince George, Nanaimo, Thompson-Okanagan, Vancouver and an event hosted by the BC Liberal Indigenous Network.

— With files from Parksville Qualicum Beach News

editor@albernivalleynews.com

BC Liberals

Just Posted

Rob Kernachan editorial cartoon.
Editorial cartoonist focuses on Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day is the feature of Rob Kernachan’s contribution this week.… Continue reading

The grads of 2021 at Chemainus Secondary School will be resilient based on their experiences through COVID. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Making the most of grad events

Class of 2021 will carry resilience with them throughout their years based on COVID experience

COVID-19 has made the 2020-21 school year at Chemainus Secondary School interesting and challenging for graduates. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Chemainus Secondary School 2021 graduates

Here’s the young men and women who are embarking on life’s next journey

Girls just wanna have fun. From left: Danielle Dela Cruz, Melanie Cheng, Hanna Starkie, Camille Storteboom, Rebecca Rhode, Sian Diewert and Brianne Pamminger at the Crofton seawalk. (Photo by Alana Starkie)
Prom night brings some semblance of normalcy for 2021 Chemainus grads

Being together at least provides class members with some comfort

Tom Millard served his community well for so many years with the Chemainus Fire Department. (Photo submitted)
Millard dedicated himself to community service

Long-time Chemainus Fire Department member and chief remembered for his commitment

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read