Dianne Watts was the third BC Liberal leadership candidate to visit the Bulkley Valley ahead of the debate in Prince George on Nov. 4.
Mike Bernier dropped out days after his visit, and as of press time former B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone was still in it to win it. The vote to choose a new leader of the Opposition begins Feb. 1.
Watts is a former Surrey mayor who stepped down as a federal Conservative MP to run for the leadership. She spoke to The Interior News about why she thought she fit as a BC Liberal.
“The BC Liberal Party is a coalition. It’s a coalition of people that are from across the spectrum. So if we get away from labelling people, let’s look at what we do represent. We do represent free enterprise; we do represent job creation and economic growth; we do support entrepreneurship,” said Watts.
“We want to make sure that small business is supported and empowered, and we want to create the environment for them to thrive.”
She added that she placed herself on the socially progressive end of the political spectrum, pointing to her efforts as Surrey mayor to invest in poverty reduction and housing strategies.
“There’s a reason why we do the things that we do in terms of fiscal responsibility and balance budgets, because we should be reinvesting back into communities and back into the people that helped balance the budget in the first place,” said Watts, adding she believed labels were divisive.
One interesting way Watts suggested for the Province to invest in communities was by ensuring taxes raised from the sale of soon-to-be-legalized marijuana went to municipalities.
“It’s coming [legalization], there’s no doubt about it. The sale and regulation — and policing — are all done at a local level. So the framework is going to be done in conjunction with the Province and the municipalities. So if it’s sold in the community, there should be a revenue stream that covers off the policing issues and the sale and regulation issues,” she said.
When asked if the money to municipalities would have to go to policing, Watts said she was interested with how the Province figures it out.
“They’re working on the framework right now, so I’d be interested to see exactly how that’s broken down in terms of that framework. But in the same context it will affect communities — you can’t get away from that. So communities need to have the resources to do a proper job in managing it,” she said.
Another platform point that would directly affect the Northwest was on energy. Involving local governments were involved was again part of her strategy, this time in building a “comprehensive energy strategy for oil and gas, LNG, electricity, solar, wind and other renewables,” according to a release from her campaign.
She said that strategy needs to look 20-50 years into the future.
“Everybody has to be at the table developing that because it affects everybody,” said Watts.
She pointed to the future of the ubiquitous automobile as an example.
“The car manufactures are moving towards electric vehicles. Well, you have to have rapid charging stations, the infrastructure, right across the whole entire province. We’re going to need electricity for the electric cars. So what does that look like? That’s what I’m saying, it’s not just a one-off, it’s looking at it collectively and having a comprehensive energy plan that articulates a 50-year plan going forward,” said Watts, who included exports as something need in the plan.
When asked how she would approach groups currently blockading planned LNG pipeline routs in Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan territory, she said they needed to be brought to the table for discussion.
“Having those conversations as to, ‘OK, you don’t want this. What is it that you do want,’ ” said Watts.
“There’s people that don’t want a lot of things, but you have to have the conversation of, ‘OK, if not this, then what.’ And I don’t know that those conversations have been undertaken in a meaningful way.”