What this means for BC’s political landscape and for you: It’s time to update your public affairs and communications plans to reflect the new provincial political reality.
Former MLA and senior Cabinet Minister, and current real estate executive, Kevin Falcon was elected leader of the BC Liberal Party tonight and becomes Leader of the Official Opposition after winning with over 52 per cent of the vote. Ellis Ross came in second place with almost 34 per cent on the fifth ballot. After a year-long leadership race fraught with public squabbles between campaigns and concerns about membership validity, Falcon now faces the most challenging task of all: rebuilding the BC Liberal Party into a viable alternative to the governing BC NDP with just over two years until the next provincial election.
Falcon inherits a party very much in need of rebuilding and renewal – and the party members themselves will be the first to tell you that. The 2020 provincial election saw the BC Liberals lose 13 seats, many of them in traditionally ‘BC Liberal ridings’ and sent a caucus of only 28 MLAs back to Victoria, a big shift from the previous group of 41.
In leadership races, caucus unity can sometimes end up as collateral damage, especially in races like this with a lot of divisive moments between colleagues. With such a small group dealing with some large internal fractures, Falcon will need to make it a priority to fill those gaps, and get people refocused on the goal: securing a mandate to govern BC in 2024.
New political leaders mean new goals for public affairs and communications plans. With new leaders come new critics, new staff and new policy priorities. Having a team of knowledgeable consultants and public affairs professionals will help navigate the changes, and your team at H+K is well-positioned to help with that.
In terms of critic roles, who goes where is what matters. With only 28 members to choose from, Falcon will have to be incredibly strategic to keep caucus unified and satisfied while also putting forward the most effective critics who have the skills to take on a popular and well-resourced NDP government. It won’t be surprising to see early and vocal supporters of Falcon like MLAs Todd Stone, Trevor Halford and Teresa Wat taking on key roles within the BC Liberal Caucus.
Falcon will also need to be strategic in his choices of key leadership positions in the organization, including caucus Chief of Staff, Executive Director of the party and party president. He will need a solid organizational framework, and a senior political team in place, or no amount of interesting policy ideas or witty tweets will help reset the train firmly on the tracks.
For Falcon to resonate with voters, defining the audience, truly understanding what resonates with them and finding effective ways to capture and hold their attention will be the path to success. Our planning model at H+K follows this process and starts with figuring out who is needed to win. What are their values? The findings we apply to clients also applies to politics.
Falcon will also need to win a seat in the legislature, an issue that has surely been the topic of many internal discussions, with former leader Andrew Wilkinson being the most likely candidate to resign his seat for Falcon to run in a by-election. The NDP have six months to call that by-election, leaving Falcon with the important decision of how and where he’s going to spend that time. Arguably the most effective thing Falcon can do as leader without a seat is appoint a member of caucus to lead on his behalf in the legislature and then hit the road, signing up new members and raising as much money as possible.
|Kevin Falcon||4,121 (47%)||4,143 (47.6%)||4,202.26 (48.3%)||4,318.14 (49.63%)||4,541.35 (52.19%)|
|Ellis Ross||2,325 (26.7%)||2,355.9 (27.1%)||2,493.1 (28.66%)||2,714.50 (31.2%)||2,928.33 (33.65%)|
|Michael Lee||899 (10.3%)||912.4 (10.5%)||938.43 (10.8%)||1,039.37 (11.94%)||1,230.31 (14.14%)|
|Val Litwin||504 (5.8%)||517.9 (5.95%)||536.17 (6.16%||627.97 (7.21%)|
|Gavin Dew||466 (5.8%)||481.4 (5.5%)||429.93 (6.01%)|
|Renee Merrifield||278 (3.2%)||289 (3.3%)|
|Stan Sipos||104.6 (1.2%)|
There are three key things Falcon will have to focus on for this to be a success for him: tone, teamwork and, well, people. These are essential pieces of the puzzle a leader needs to put together to win a general election. Tone matters, and it needs to be set immediately before someone else sets it for you. Teamwork matters. If the team isn’t rowing in the same direction, the boat will simply keep spinning in circles and eventually losing the race. But the most important part of this, are people. Falcon is only one person, and the people they choose to help execute the plan and support the vision, will matter.
Beyond internal struggles, Falcon takes the helm as Premier Horgan continues to enjoy approval ratings that make him among the most popular premiers in Canada. Polling shows the BC Liberals remain a distant second but are at their highest level of popularity since the start of the pandemic, despite not having a permanent leader until tonight.
On Monday, BC politics launches into a busy Spring session with a Throne Speech and Budget, followed by what is expected to be a robust legislative agenda. Your team at H+K can help provide the analysis and insight into what’s happening at the legislature and what it means for you and your business. Connect with us to work together to ensure your priorities are positioned to get you results.
Kevin Falcon was first elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly in 2001 in the riding of Surrey-Cloverdale. During his time in government, he held numerous portfolios such as the Minister of State for Deregulation, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Minister of Health, and Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance. After retiring from politics in 2013, Falcon joined Anthem Capital, a real estate development company focused on investment, development, and management of commercial and residential properties. Falcon, his wife, and two daughters reside in North Vancouver.