Written for Daily Hive by Todd Stone, the BC Liberal Party MLA-elect for Kamloops-South Thompson
Last weekend, Elections BC released the final count from our recent provincial election. The results for the BC Liberal Party are beyond distressing. We won just 28 seats compared to the NDP’s 57 – our worst showing since 1991, which is perhaps not the best comparison to make.
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I was a young party volunteer during that 1991 election, and I remember the celebration. That election marked our breakthrough into the BC Legislature, from no seats to 17, and we achieved status as the Official Opposition.
The fallout from Election 2020 is the opposite of celebratory. It’s dreadful, and it’s clear we have a lot of work to do.
Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor. Yes, the NDP’s self-serving snap election put us at a disadvantage out of the gate. But those disadvantages are small potatoes compared to the actual problem: our province has evolved, voters have evolved, and our party didn’t do nearly enough to evolve along with them.
So what do we do about it now?
Let’s start with what we shouldn’t do. There is a temptation to point fingers, cast blame, and retreat into respective political corners within our coalition. Doing so won’t help anything.
Here’s where I propose we begin. First and foremost, it’s time we connect with those for whom our party is no longer relevant. It’s time we better understand their challenges and aspirations. Let’s be honest: we promised to do that after the 2017 election, yet we didn’t. We need to do so now. We need to take a deep breath, engage meaningfully and transparently with British Columbians across the province, and listen.
How will we inspire more women and young people to join us? How will we ensure that our party reflects British Columbia’s incredible diversity? BIPOC members, LGBTQ members. Young and old, urban and rural, coastal and interior. If we want to be the party for all British Columbians, then all British Columbians need to know that their voices, their views, and their priorities are reflected in what we stand for.
Second, while I ran for the BC Liberal Party leadership in 2018 – and I’m thinking very hard about doing so again – I believe we should actually take our time before heading into a leadership contest.
There are key questions that require time and attention to address first. What does this party stand for? What kind of party do we want to be? What priorities do we want to push forward to address the challenges facing our citizens, and to best position the next generation of British Columbians to compete and win on the global stage?
Likewise, there are growing calls to consider changing the name of our party to better reflect the economic coalition our party represents. While I don’t see this as a cure-all, it is a topic worthy of thoughtful discussion and consideration.
Taking our time before heading into another leadership contest is also important since we are still in a worsening pandemic that won’t make it easy for leadership candidates to get out across the province and connect in-person with British Columbians any time soon.
Finally, our new Caucus needs to be 100 per cent ready and focused to do our jobs in the BC Legislature for a critical session in early 2021. Considering the massive economic impacts of COVID-19, the next provincial budget will be one of the most important our province has seen in decades. British Columbians are counting on us as the Official Opposition to hold the Horgan government’s feet to the fire, and expect us to be focused, professional, and tough.
Personally, I support holding off on a leadership contest until Q4 of 2021. By that time, God willing, the COVID-19 pandemic will be mostly behind us and we’ll have had the time to do the in-depth listening that our party needs, and that British Columbians deserve.
Let me start this process now by inviting you to share your thoughts with me on my Facebook page.
These steps are our best chance at developing an inspiring vision and bold ideas that reflect the needs and aspirations of people across our province. They’re our best chance at ensuring our party has diverse, generational, and gender representation that enables all British Columbians to see themselves in our leadership. To put it more bluntly, this is our best chance at taking a disappointing election result and using it as a catalyst for our party’s renewal.
Choosing to begin this journey together as a team would be our first step towards winning the 2024 provincial election.