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BC Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon talks outside a party caucus meeting in Richmond, B.C., on Nov. 19, 2010. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
BC Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon talks outside a party caucus meeting in Richmond, B.C., on Nov. 19, 2010. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

To BC Liberals, Falcon is the 'establishment candidate' Add to ...

Kevin Falcon has been typecast as the most conservative-leaning choice on the ballot for the B.C. Liberals leadership contest.

To the B.C. Liberals, he is the establishment candidate. He's attracted the biggest names in cabinet and the greatest financial backers. If the party's membership opts for a different leader on Saturday, it is because they want to depart from the path of Gordon Campbell, who delivered three successive electoral victories, but foundered over the imposition of the harmonized sales tax.

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Mr. Falcon has been demonized by his New Democratic Party critics as an extremist - the king of the public-private partnerships, and the champion of private health care. Those labels don't necessarily hurt him with the free-enterprise coalition he hopes to lead.

Peel back a layer or two, and Mr. Falcon starts to look more complex.

There is Mr. Falcon as the champion of multiculturalism, wading into the debate over the ban of ceremonial kirpans in the Quebec National Assembly in January. "No one should be denied access to a democratic institution because of their religious beliefs," Mr. Falcon declared.

On illicit drug use and addictions treatment, Mr. Falcon has taken some surprising steps that his critics will never draw attention to. (Nor did he, during the leadership race).

He belongs to a government that prizes good relations with the federal Conservatives, but Mr. Falcon battled the Tory government - in court and through the media - in defence of Vancouver's safe injection site.

Mr. Falcon as health minister also found $48-million for a pilot program to send health-care workers onto the streets in a bid to stop the spread of AIDS among aboriginal people and drug users. He also provided money for a clinical trial offering free heroin to addicts.

In the legislature, Mr. Falcon is a take-no-prisoners partisan. An exacting boss as a cabinet minister, he's not afraid of strong-arm tactics behind the scenes. But for the duration of the leadership campaign, he carefully presented himself as the coalition candidate. While his rivals Christy Clark and George Abbott fired away at each other, there was Mr. Falcon, standing back and talking about unity.

Follow on Twitter: @justine_hunter

 

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