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Baldrey: It's clear the B.C. United Party is in a 'do-or-die' battle

Kevin Falcon is realizing he needs to grab the public's attention sooner than later, said columnist Keith Baldrey.
B.C. United Party leader Kevin Falcon.

B.C. United leader Kevin Falcon has a new slogan that he and his party intend to frequently use in the coming weeks and months.

“We are mainstream, and they are extreme,” he told me, the “extreme” part a reference to the B.C. Conservative Party.

Over lunch last week, Falcon told me he intends to aim his party’s sights on what it considers to be extreme right-wing candidates running for the B.C. Conservatives.

He said he intends to make it clear that not only do the B.C. Conservatives have no connection to the federal Conservative Party, but that they are closer ideologically to the People’s Party of Canada, which is a far-right fringe party.

B.C. United (as well as the NDP) have amassed a considerable amount of material on a number of B.C. Conservative candidates who have been associated with intolerant views and the alt-right.

I recently received a 54-page dossier from B.C. United containing more than a hundred social media posts by a Conservative candidate. Helpfully, a table of contents was provided with categories such as “anti-trans hatred” and “racism/alt-right views” and “compares vaxx pass to Nazism.”

When first asked about these offensive posts, Rustad said everyone is entitled to their opinion. Within days, however, the candidate — Damon Scrase in Courtenay-Comox — either resigned or was pushed out.

Scrase became the third Conservative candidate ousted for intolerant or anti-science views. We shall see if there is more to come.

As we talked, it became clear to me that Falcon finally realizes he and his party are in a do-or-die battle with the B.C. Conservatives over which party will provide the most credible alternative to the NDP.

What seems to have brought things into a clearer focus for B.C. United was the doomed-from-the-start bid for some kind of working arrangement with the B.C. Conservatives as well as the defection of MLA Elenore Sturko from the B.C. United caucus to the B.C. Conservative Party.

Sturko’s move had been rumoured for weeks but still came something as a shock, given her repeated public denunciations of the B.C. Conservatives and its leader John Rustad. She also provided plenty of “private” denunciations in the form of texts and emails to B.C. United staff and MLAs, much of which will likely surface publicly at some point.

Falcon feels personally betrayed by Sturko and viewed her crossing over to the Conservatives as rampant hypocrisy. Other B.C. United MLAs have said Sturko would stand up in caucus and routinely denounce Rustad and his party.

At the very least, Sturko’s defection seems to have lit a fire under Falcon and his party. He made two interesting policy announcements last week that, in normal times, would likely have been unveiled during the election campaign itself.

But Falcon seems to realize he can’t wait for the campaign to start and that he needs to grab the public’s attention now. His two announcements last week — a direct subsidy childcare program and free shingles vaccine for those over age 50 — may have started moving the needle of public opinion. We shall see.

I’m told more major policy announcements will come well ahead of the campaign; a strategy seemingly aimed at gaining ground on the B.C. Conservatives before it begins.

“Mainstream, not extreme.”

Get used to hearing that buzz phrase often in the coming days.

Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.

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