BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said his party won’t be moving to the right of the political spectrum.
“I think that most British Columbians are common-sense mainstream, centre-right individuals and they just want to have people that can represent them in a common sense way,” he said Tuesday morning (Oct. 3) at the start of the fall session of the provincial legislature.
“I’m not interested in going after the extremes. The extremes can part themselves at the NDP and the BC Conservatives.”
He made that comment against the backdrop of a recent poll that shows BC United has the support of 20 per cent of decided voters, just one point ahead of the Conservative Party of BC. The latter party debuted Tuesday in the legislature as the fourth official party under the leadership of John Rustad, MLA for Nechako Lakes. Its rise mirrors that of other parties with what experts have called a populist message, often at the expense of centre-right parties.
Rustad became leader of the Conservatives last March, almost a year after he was ousted from BC United over his claim that carbon dioxide doesn’t contribute to climate change. The Conservatives gained official party status last month when Abbotsford-South MLA Bruce Banman left BC united to join Rustad’s ranks.
Falcon dismissed the polls on Tuesday, saying his party’s goal is to hold the NDP government accountable during the upcoming session. “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that…because they don’t matter a year out from the election,” he said. “But I will tell you by the time the election rolls around, people are going to know who the people that are actually ready to form government are.”
One figure hoping to be part of a future governing caucus is Houston Mayor Shane Brienen, who will be running against Rustad as the incumbent for that riding. Falcon announced Brienen — who was not present — Tuesday morning.
“I firmly believe there are significant opportunities for progress in Nechako Lakes that the current government is not fully capitalizing on,” Brienen said in a statement.
Brienen is running for BC United with 17 years of municipal experience under his belt. He is currently serving his third term as mayor after having served as councillor. Brienen also has strong ties to the forestry sector.
Falcon also used Tuesday to criticize Rustad for making comments comparing residential schools to gender and sexuality education in public schools.
He made the likening in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter, on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Saturday (Sept. 30).
“Today, we remember what happens when the Canadian government thinks it’s better at raising children than parents. I will always stand with parents,” he said.
Many have since called him out for politicizing the day in a move to platform the parental rights movement, which has vocally opposed the Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities (SOGI) teaching resource being used in B.C. schools. Rustad said in a Sept. 20 statement he would abolish SOGI if elected.
“It’s a stupid analogy to be totally candid with you,” Falcon said. “(It)’s exactly the kind of comment that I think you will increasingly coming out of the two of them. That will give greater clarity as to why they are part of our caucus. At the end…they were a management problem.”
BC United heads into the legislature with 26 members. Governing New Democrats hold 56 seats, while the BC Greens and the Conservative Party of BC each have two seats. Adam Walker sits as an independent MLA for Parksville-Qualicum after being kicked out of the NDP caucus following a human resources investigation.
-With files from Jane Skrypnek