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

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

Just Posted

“Say cheese, uh, apple… nine-year-old Jason Moran and mum Bonnie are all smiles over a number of sales made during “apple day” of local cubs and beavers. Jason, a wolf cub, was one of 22 boys who, with the ready assistance of mothers, sold several boxes of apples in money-raising scheme for various projects.” (<em>The Lake News</em> Nov. 26, 1980)
Flashback: Crime wave, canoe misfortune and a highway lawsuit

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old… Continue reading

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Following too closely

Maintaining a buffer in front of your vehicle gives you time to recover from inattention

Sonia Furstenau
Sonia Furstenau column: MLA vows to keep up the fight

COVID-19 continues to strain our communities

Heating cable laid in the cold frame, awaiting the layer of sand. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Greenhouse growing in the winter

I have a heating cable I’ve never used that I’m contemplating putting to work in the cold frame

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

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

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Most Read