Liberal leadership candidate Kevin Falcon chats with the Boundary
Candidates for the province’s Liberal party leadership are using a variety of new social media and technology to get their message out to party members. Last week The Sentinel was invited to listen in on one of the ways Kevin Falcon is reaching out to his supporters in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Boundary areas – a regional teleconference.
With over a month to go in the leadership race 825 Okanagan and Boundary members of the B.C. Liberal party took part in a question and answer teleconference with Kevin Falcon, candidate for the party’s leadership, last Tuesday. The leadership race has been heating up with three candidates considered to be in the front running: George Abbott, Kevin Falcon, and Christy Clark. Falcon’s team has been setting up the teleconferences around the province to engage members in his candidacy.
“The key thing to me is leadership. Because the day after the leadership vote (the person elected is) going to be Premier of the province and they will be responsible for taking our province forward,” said Falcon. “I believe the new generation of leadership that Kevin Falcon will provide is an opportunity for us as we go forward to combine some real experience in the senior executive roles that I’ve held as minister, but also the ability to engage and pull lots of new people into the party in particular, young people. As I think about this campaign, it’s about listening, learning, and about leading.”
During the hour long session, Falcon addressed his idea for a master teacher rewards program, promoted his plan for the reduction of the harmonized sales tax (HST), and addressed a range of questions from the members about affordable housing, agricultural land reserve (ALR), carbon tax, health care, the B.C. Rail fiasco and parks.
The master teacher incentive program Falcon is proposing is similar to one being implemented nationally by Australia’s new Labour Government. Falcon said he will work with teachers, administrators, parents, and community leaders to develop a set of criteria for identifying innovative educators across B.C. These recognized master teachers would then help mentor other educators to encourage excellence in the system.
“The best thing we can do for our education system – its not how great our buildings are, or how fantastic the technology is in our classrooms, or how great the textbooks are – it’s the quality of the teacher standing at the front of the classroom that best determines educational outcomes,” explained Falcon. “I really believe passionately that we have to find a way to recognize exceptional teachers in this province.”
There were also poll questions that the members responded to through the conference giving Falcon feedback on his ideas. The poll on the master teacher program showed 77 percent of the participants supported this idea.
Falcon is also proposing an HST reduction to 10 percent.
“I’ve acknowledged my share of responsibility for doing such a terrible job as a government in explaining what we are doing, why we were doing it and not providing information to the public. But I believe it is the right public policy, poorly explained perhaps, but it’s the right public policy,” said Falcon. “Before I announced that I was running I sat down with the Finance Minister…based on that conversation it’s my view that we can afford an initial one percent reduction in the HST and we cannot afford a further cut of one percent until we see a turn around in the revenue to the province. So that’s probably going to be a couple of years out.”
Along with the HST reduction, Falcon is committing to holding the carbon tax at its current levels. The poll taken after this discussion showed 54 percent of the members participating did not want the carbon tax at all.
In addressing the ALR issues, Falcon came out in favour of more regional sensitivity in the program.
“I know, for example, in the Peace Country you’ve got a lot of farmers who have been generational farmers that want an opportunity to stay on their property. They may want to have their kids take over the opportunity to farm but they would like to have a small portion of the farm property available for them to build a home on and stay there on the land that they’ve taken care of for many, many years,” Falcon commented. “Our ALR is so inflexible it will not allow those kinds of things to happen. We have to recognize that it is a big province and not everybody in the province is the same and there has to be some element of sensitivity around things like the ALR.”
Falcon has been in provincial government for nine years and has been in charge of both health and transportation ministries. The Liberal members will be voting on Feb. 26 for their new leader and Premier of the province.