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Legends of the Fall

Jordan Bateman: As the season changes, the BC Liberal leadership race should pick up interest – and intensity.
When the weather cools, the action should heat up.

There’s an old saying in the Canadian Football League that “nothing really matters until Labour Day.” The same may be true for the BC Liberal leadership race – with the arrival of September, the action is about to pick up.

Until now, the candidates have left each other alone. Each of the six – Ellis Ross, Gavin Dew, Kevin Falcon, Michael Lee, Val Litwin, and Renee Merrifield – have entered the race in their own style, at their chosen time.

For the most part, they’ve got along, with each having their own moments in the sun.

Falcon has traveled the province and put on larger events like the Beans and Jeans fundraiser he pioneered 15 years ago. Ross toured fire-ravaged communities in the Interior. Lee has held gatherings throughout the province. “Dew Brews” have become regular occurrences at craft breweries across BC. Litwin has published some excellent videos. Merrifield has been meeting with key Lower Mainland types.

More to the point: there has been no public trash talking or negative campaigning. But this will likely change once any two campaigns make a deal and encourage their supporters to mark the other candidate as their second choice – which in a ranked ballot, can easily be (and often is) the difference between winning and losing. Nothing gets vitriol going like losing the opportunity to be a second choice.

When it comes to signing up new members, the lack of data is obvious. However, as president of the Langley East riding association, I can tell you anecdotally that every time the Ross campaign sends out an email appealing for new members, we see a modest uptick in online signups, at least in Langley.

These signups are going to be important. Thousands of BC Liberal memberships  signed up in the 2017 race won by Andrew Wilkinson will actually expire before this vote. They need to be renewed, or replaced with new members. For all these campaigns, that will be continue to be the single most important task.

The fall will also force social media heavyweight Aaron Gunn into a decision on running; his exploratory committee – announced on Canada Day – has been mighty quiet. If he does choose to run, it will be a fascinating experiment, seeing whether he can convert his many followers into paid memberships, and votes.

For all campaigns and interested members, the central event on everyone’s calendar is Tuesday September 28: the first leadership debate.

This debate should be far different than those held in 2017. It’s easy to forget now, but the BC Liberals then held more seats than the “ND-Green” government. Then, candidates were pitching policies they would enact if they soon became premier – very much a realistic possibility at the time.

Obviously, things didn’t play out that way, and today the Horgan Government has a safe majority for another three years. With that in mind, the focus of the debate should be on rebuilding the party, not specific policy. Think principles and broad vision, not legislation.

Buckle up, BC Liberals: this race is about to heat up.

Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Vice President, Communications & Marketing for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor.