B.C. Conservative leader Dan Brooks stopped in Victoria last week on a tour of the province to prepare the party for the next election. Here are excerpts from his conversation with Black Press legislature reporter Tom Fletcher.
TF: There was a rumour that you’re in Victoria to join the B.C. Liberal Party.
DB: I don’t know where that started. It’s false. I’ve never talked to a Liberal about anything of that nature, ever.
TF: I only bring it up because the eternal question is whether your party can only split the B.C. Liberal coalition and help the NDP.
DB: On the contrary, I think what we’re doing is critical to the health of B.C.’s political system. We need Conservatives in that legislature. This is the opportunity to make wholesale change in B.C. It’s always been the lesser of two evils, the NDP and the Liberals. With a Conservative alternative, this is a chance to change the whole province.
TF: What’s the first thing you would change?
DB: Let’s strengthen our democracy right off the bat by banning corporate and union donations. That would take a lot of the power out of the hands of big unions and big corporations and their influence in the ministers’ offices. Let’s catch up with the rest of the world and modern democracies that do it too, including the federal government.
TF: Are you recruiting candidates? We’re up to 87 constituencies for the 2017 election. Can you field candidates in all of them?
DB: We are recruiting candidates, and we’re in the process of finding people who are going to help us build a better province, and help us win that election in 2017. I’m touring the province to listen to British Columbians so we can develop a platform that really speaks to what they want to see in the next government, and with the platform and candidates in place, we’re going to be prepared well in advance.
TF: We have an independent in the legislature right now. Have you spoken with Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, and do you see her as a small-C conservative?
DB: I would see her that way, and she’s welcome to talk to me and join our movement. I’ve never spoken to her, though.
TF: Are you running in your home constituency of Nechako Lakes [currently held by B.C. Liberal Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad], and do you still see the party’s best chances in the North and the Interior?
DB: Absolutely. Those northern communities are very conservative. I was born and raised in Vanderhoof, and I know the Nechako Lakes area intimately. It votes Conservative federally, it wants to vote Conservative provincially, and I will give it that option in 2017.
And that is where we are going to win seats, for sure, but we can win seats in every region of this province with the right candidates and the right platform.
TF: The B.C. Liberals have a big push on for industrial development, particularly in the North. Do you support what they’re doing there?
DB: I support some aspects of what they’re doing. The liquefied natural gas dream, if it ever comes to fruition, I think is a good thing for B.C. I support pursuing that dream.
But the B.C. Liberals have really neglected northern communities, and the reason is you’ve got communities that are in decline. You’ve got population declines, schools closing.
You’ve got a timber supply that’s in crisis, and they’re a decade behind in dealing with that crisis. They’ve been solely focused on LNG and they’ve excluded all the other economic opportunities in northern B.C. And that’s the problem with the B.C. Liberals up there.
We’ve got to get a new economic vision for the North, for the Interior, that’s going to see a diverse economy, secondary value-added manufacturing, that looks at how we’re going to sustain communities long term, and not just a one-off, one project that’s going to result in short-term employment for construction and then a couple of people in operations.
TF: Speaking of construction, the NDP has come out with their energy plan. They still seem to be running against the Site C dam on the Peace River, even though work is underway. What’s your take on Site C and the NDP’s energy plan?
DB: I think that ship has sailed, and Site C is a done deal, whether you agree with it or not. And I have some reservations about it. One thing they’re not making more of in B.C. is land, and the loss of that farmland is a pretty big blow.
I also think they have neglected to look at the natural gas power generation option, particularly in the North, but that’s what happened and it’s going ahead now. Reversing that decision now I think would be very foolish.
TF: Gas-fired generation is how Fort Nelson runs, and always has. You would consider more of that?
DB: I would consider more of that as our energy needs increase. When I think of Site C, the first thing that comes to mind is cost overruns, $8 billion, how soon is that going to be $16 billion? The B.C. Liberals do not have a track record of staying on budget.
TF: Energy Minister Bill Bennett has gone out on a limb, predicting that they’re going to keep this one on budget.
DB: [Laughs] We’ll see.
TF: What else would you like to see in B.C.?
DB: We need alternatives in B.C. politics. The B.C. Conservative Party is the best hope for British Columbia to make real, substantive change, economically, politically and I believe even socially.
These old recycled ideas from the NDP and the B.C. Liberals are going nowhere. The B.C. Liberals have really poisoned the well, so to speak, with this open government and triple deleting and all those scandals. They’ve overstayed their welcome. People are looking around for alternatives, and they don’t trust the NDP.