The New Democrats have intensified attacks against Kevin Falcon in an attempt to knock the BC Liberal leader off his perch as front-runner in the BC Liberal stronghold of Vancouver-Quilchena.
With the byelection on April 30, the NDP have poured advertising dollars into online attack ads. In a Google search of Kevin Falcon’s name, the top hit is an NDP ad titled: “The real Kevin Falcon. He has a long history in BC — of making life harder for people like you.”
Falcon says the NDP is dredging up 20-year-old policies to distract from their fiscal mismanagement that has made life less affordable for British Columbians.
The partisan mudslinging, according to one political watcher, is an attempt by the New Democrats to sharpen their lines of attack against the Liberal leader before the 2024 election and a chance for Falcon to reinvent himself as a face of party renewal.
“This is as much about the future as it is the past,” said David Black, an associate professor at Royal Roads University’s school of communication and culture. “It’s about litigating the past by framing Falcon as the hatchet man of the (Gordon) Campbell and (Christy) Clark governments and defining the future in terms of how the NDP is going to address Falcon as the new leader in the two years up to the next election.”
The NDP’s candidate, Jeanette Ashe, has been stumping with Finance Minister Selina Robinson and Mental Health Minister Sheila Malcolmson. They highlighted the deep cuts, when Falcon was a cabinet minister in 2002, to mental health resources and social services including a $2 million cut to sexual assault services and domestic violence supports for women. The same budget, Ashe said, slashed taxes by five per cent for the richest one per cent.
Falcon acknowledged that not every decision the former Liberal government made was a good one.
“I acknowledge that you’re bound to make mistakes in government — this government’s a good example of that,” he told Postmedia.
Falcon said the fact that two senior cabinet ministers are taking time out of their “mismanagement” of the economy and the opioid crisis to attack him for decisions made 20 years ago “shows the level of desperation that they have to try and make sure that nobody talks about their own record.”
In the five years the NDP has been in power, Falcon said, every aspect of British Columbians’ lives have got more expensive — housing, gas, groceries.
The government has also failed to address the overdose crisis, he said, pointing to record numbers of people dying in 2021, six years into the public health emergency.
“At every single metric — overdose deaths, housing prices, rental costs, grocery costs, fuel costs — they are utterly failing,” Falcon said.
Falcon spent 12 years in the Liberal government which included roles as minister of state for deregulation, transportation minister and health minister under Campbell and finance minister and deputy premier under Clark. After losing the Liberal leadership race to Clark, Falcon left politics in 2012 to work in the private sector, most recently at Vancouver-based real estate development and private equity firm, Anthem Capital.
Ashe, who is chair of the political science department at Douglas College and is married to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, says she knows it will be a challenge denying Falcon a seat in the legislature considering the riding’s Liberal bent. But it’s a challenge she wanted to take on because she was working directly with women hurt by the Liberal government’s social service cuts in 2002.
Ashe said she was volunteering at the Vancouver Status of Women when the women’s resource center lost 100 per of its provincial funding.
“To be blunt, Kevin Falcon doesn’t care about people in crisis,” Ashe said at a news conference Tuesday, pointing to Falcon’s public comments in 2008 after a woman threatened suicide on the Second Narrows Bridge. When asked about better barriers on the bridge, Falcon said: “If people are trying to kill themselves, it is tough to stop them.”
The BC Green candidate, Wendy Hayko, an emergency management expert, said rather than a campaign of personal attacks, she’s taking a collaborative approach that she believes could sway some unhappy Liberal voters to the Greens.
My campaign is “less attack focused” Hayko said, and more focused on collaborating with the NDP government to make improvements on the province’s climate targets and the affordability crisis.
“It’s saying ‘Hey, we’re gonna have to work together. We know what you’ve been doing isn’t working,’” she said.
Running for the BC Conservatives is Dallas Brodie, a lawyer and member of the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners’ Association.
In her role as spokesperson for Safer Vancouver, a group that highlights concerns around downtown safety, she has said people in mental health or addiction crisis should be locked in jail or an institution.
The byelection, which takes place April 30 with advance voting starting Friday until April 27, was triggered after Andrew Wilkinson resigned his seat. Wilkinson stepped down as Liberal leader after the party lost 13 seats in the October 2020 election, handing Premier John Horgan’s NDP a majority.
The riding, one of the wealthiest in BCs, has elected a Liberal MLA in every provincial election since it was created in 1991.
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