Provincial Liberal leader-hopeful George Abbott was the first candidate in the leadership race to make a stop in Smithers, concluding a day-long tour that began in Prince Rupert.
Abbott had a lot to say on the party and what his leadership would look like, and particularly noted that the party has fundamentally lost the trust of British Columbians.
That means he’s looking to reconnect with the grassroots of the party, and that means being visible and engaging with the people outside of Victoria.
“It is getting out to a different community in a different region in the province on a regular basis … and actually sitting down with people and listening and hearing their concerns.”
He said as a Premier he would visit ridings such as Stikine “more than once a year” and that the entire caucus would visit on an annual basis.
In addressing attendees at the Hudson Bay Lodge, he outlined his three goals: getting in touch with the grassroots, bringing the caucus to different regions more frequently, and focusing on developing resource opportunities.
“The expansion and diversification of our resource economy, to me, is huge,” said Abbott. “For all of the province of [B.C.], particularly outside of the 604 area code … resource development is the backbone of the community, it always has been, and likely always will be. We need to unlock that potential of resource development for those regions so young people have jobs in those regions and communities continue to be sustainable.”
As a government he said they’ve become too insular and have stopped listening as they should.
“We’ve been too quick to provide them with solutions with problems they didn’t even know existed yet,” he said.
That subject came up prior to Abbott’s arrival with Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, a vocal supporter of Abbott. Rustad noted that the harmonized sales tax, something he personally believes in, was a solution to a problem that was never properly communicated to the province.
Abbott was adamant that he didn’t want to see any snap elections, particularly noting the underestimated strength of the NDP.
He said that despite their own leadership issues, they are likely to re-strengthen quicker than the Liberals.
“[They’re] a force to be reckoned with,” he said.
Rather than an election, he said he wants to spend the next two-and-a-half years rebuilding the Liberal party and allowing them to reconnect with the people.
The North is part of that plan, he said, suggesting that the government may have been losing focus on the Northwest as they have lost seats in the region in the past.