Former British Columbia finance minister Kevin Falcon, who ran a close second to Christy Clark for the BC Liberal leadership in 2011, says the party might now be best led by a caucus outsider who could overcome criticisms of the party's record in government.
Mr. Falcon, whose name frequently comes up as a potential successor to Ms. Clark, says he's not interested in running, having retired from politics in 2013.
The BC Liberals are preparing for a leadership contest to replace Ms. Clark, whose resignation took effect last Friday. The campaign will likely focus on what factors reduced the Liberals to a minority in the provincial legislature, setting the stage for the NDP to take power, and what direction the party must go to recover.
Mr. Falcon said it would be difficult for anyone from the previous government to take over the party. "That's going to be the challenge for candidates that are coming from the existing MLA cast," he said in an interview. "It's not impossible; it just makes it more challenging to be that change candidate. I think outside candidates probably have that advantage."
However, Mr. Falcon, an executive vice-president with the B.C. investment company Anthem Capital Corp., says he won't be seeking the job.
"I am not going to be a candidate for the leadership of the BC Liberal party and while I appreciate all of the calls, e-mails, texts and people stopping me on the street and encouraging me to run, my circumstances are similar to what led me to retire in the first place," Mr. Falcon said.
"I have two young daughters and a very satisfying career in the private sector."
Mr. Falcon quipped that his "days are being destroyed" by having to respond to all the people calling about a leadership campaign that is not going to happen.
"I'll never get any work done if I have to return all the calls and e-mails."
Among the calls have been outreach from the leadership prospects, largely members of the BC Liberal caucus, who have said they are considering leadership bids.
Ms. Clark won the BC Liberal leadership with 52-per-cent support, compared with 48 per cent for Mr. Falcon, who had considerable support in caucus over the one MLA who backed Ms. Clark. Mr. Falcon had previously served as ministers of finance, health and transportation, as well as deputy premier. He spent a dozen years as a member of the legislature. Ms. Clark led the Liberals to a surprise win in 2013. Mr. Falcon did not seek re-election.
This past spring, the New Democrats and Greens joined together to oust the Liberals in a confidence vote, prompting the Lieutenant-Governor to ask the NDP to form a new government.
John Horgan is now Premier and the Liberals find themselves in opposition after 16 years in power.
As defeat in the legislature became a near certainty, Ms. Clark's beleaguered Liberals tabled a Throne Speech in June that offered a wholesale remake of the party's election campaign.
Mr. Falcon said that Throne Speech presents a challenge to the party.
"That recent Throne Speech was not helpful at all, to say the least," Mr. Falcon said.
"By adopting the NDP-Green platform holus-bolus, it went against 16 years of largely principled policy leadership."
Ms. Clark, asked about that issue in a final news conference as leader, said the party's next leader would be free to break with the Throne Speech she presided over – a point that others in the party have also made.
Mr. Falcon said integrity and transparency need to be front and centre for all candidates seeking the leadership, making specific reference to campaign finance reform and how government operates.
He also advised boldness in policy to address "legitimate issues" of affordability, especially in the Lower Mainland.
"That means really bold and new ideas in transit, in housing, in daycare – all of those issues that are going to be important for urban-suburban voters."
He also said there needs to be a debate about how to raise government funds. "People talk often about how we spend government's money, but people need to focus about how we generate it.
BC Liberal caucus members Sam Sullivan, a former Vancouver mayor, former advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson, ex-transportation minister Todd Stone, former education minister Mike Bernier and Jas Johal, a former TV reporter elected to the legislature this spring, have said they are considering runs for the leadership.
Outside the caucus, Iain Black, the former labour minister who is now president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, has said he may run. Tory MP Dianne Watts, formerly mayor of Surrey, says she is being urged to run, but has not made any decision.