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Renew, or fade away

Part of a series on what the BC Liberals need to do from here: Puneet Sandhar says renewal is overdue – but the party has done it before.

“Change with the times, or the times will change you.” After the 2020 election results, this is the mantra BC Liberals will have to accept and contend with as they rebuild – and more importantly, renew.

From dominating the Lower Mainland just a few years ago, the BC Liberals have lost ground over the past two elections, predominantly in this part of the province. There are several reasons for this: demographics have greatly changed over the past 10 years; millennials now make up a significant portion of voters; and increasing numbers of minority voters have chosen to call places like Surrey home.

This change in demographics has brought a change in the top-of-mind issues. Issues like affordability, access to education and healthcare, transportation improvements, and housing dominate the conversation here.

As the BC Liberals renew, it’s imperative they draw diverse and young faces to their next slate of candidates to be in a position to better connect with these voters, and be able to speak to their issues.

Renewal rests on two parts. First, they need to attract new faces that represent the modern British Columbia. Second, they must renew their message.

The party can no longer rest on opposition to the NDP or on a “strong economy.” It has to move beyond that and be one that connects to millennials who struggle to pay for university tuition, young families who face challenges of housing unaffordability, and seniors who need to access healthcare.

Now with no risk of a snap election, BC Liberals have time to begin recruiting candidates for winnable seats. The goal should be to select new, young, and diverse individuals. New candidates (and especially women) need time, and extra encouragement to run because of the unique life circumstances and challenges they each face in their personal lives.

A new field of candidates will instantly refresh the BC Liberal team while providing new insights and ideas on how to tackle many of the pressing issues in the Lower Mainland. The BC Liberals have done a great job of fielding these candidates in the past. In 1996, future stars like Christy Clark, Colin Hansen, and Geoff Plant entered caucus, held the NDP’s feet to the fire, and provided important voices at the decision-making table.

Without these voices, the important step of renewing our message can’t be completed. While issues like BC’s resource sector are critical to our collective future, the simple fact is they don’t resonate in the Lower Mainland like they do in other parts of the province.

To re-connect with voters who chose to stay home or switched to the NDP and the Greens – and win back the majority of the Lower Mainland’s 48 seats –  environmental leadership, BC’s tech sector, and increasing affordability all need to be a key part of the narrative from the beginning.

The work of renewal should never end; ultimately that’s simply the process of listening and building relationships. In 2017, BC voters gave us a warning; in 2020 they left no room but to aggressively take on renewal.

Puneet Sandhar is a lawyer and managing partner of Sanghera Sandhar Law Group based in Surrey, B.C and practices in the area of Real Estate Law and Land Development. She has and continues to serve on boards for numerous organizations including the Surrey Homeless and Housing Society, City of Surrey Board of Variance. She was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for her volunteerism and work in the community.


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