The somewhat awkward return of Kevin Falcon to BC politics via a Facebook live last night, was surprisingly under attended by viewers – a mere 433 when I tuned in, and that never changed much. Not surprisingly however, the comments and likes left behind were peppered with the familiar names of Conservative back room boosters, strategists , campaigners and influencers to former and current politicians known for their Conservative affiliations.
The narrative was set and crafted to counter past criticisms, and its one we should expect to see again and again. Falcon, once coined Rebel with a cause in a 2009 piece by Frances Bula: (https://www.bcbusiness.ca/kevin-falcon-rebel-with-a-cause ), is now a family man, one who left politics for his children,and claims to be running for leader now for them, as well. His abrasive edges have softened, intentionally, and purposefully mentioned as as selling point was his absence from politics for a decade,spent in the private sector. No one wants a career politician, after all!
Sigh. Those of us who have been around long enough to have written copious amounts of all things Kevin Falcon, knew this moment would come. The BC Liberals are a coalition of federal Liberals and federal Conservatives. When Clark won the leadership race against Falcon, he and other Conservatives left for a break. The Harperites sent out many backroom operatives to try and keep the coalition from being totally torn over the Clark years, but the stunning loss of Clark in the 2017 election signalled the inevitable. It was only a matter of time before Falcon would make his re-entry into politics – he was already back stumping for the BC Liberals and Wilkinson in 2018, hosting a secret fundraiser at an elite West Vancouver Mansion with his close friend, Ryan Beedie. https://pressprogress.ca/the-bc-liberals-held-a-secret-fundraiser-at-a-wealthy-enbridge-executives-west-vancouver-mansion/
The timing is interesting in one aspect : covid. For many career professionals and parents, the early and only true lockdown we had last March left a massive impression on perspective and priorities. Many realized how much they had missed, and rearranged lives to spend more time with young children. Falcon, now effectively a boomer with a clock ticking as he ages, is setting to re-enter a very demanding and time focused position with young children at hand, a curious aspect to be certain. (I seem to recall other politicians using the line “Its for the children ” , Christy Clark was one of them.)
So here we are. Who is Kevin Falcon exactly, and why should his appearance and desire to become the leader of the BC Liberals concern you?
Let me just start with the fact that environmentalists were so worried about him continuing the slice and dice, deregulate and privatise style of leadership he emulated, that they joined the BC Liberals en masse to swing the vote and keep him from becoming leader, and premier. https://www.straight.com/article-377415/vancouver/green-liberals-foiled-falcon That leadership race was literally a lesser of two evils scenario, and Falcon was a Gordon Campbell protege. I still believe Falcon would be every bit as harmful to the province as Campbell was. Nothing I saw last night shows any indication of change.
He began his career as Minister of Deregulation, and immediately decreed that all ministries cut red tape by a third. While a review of regulations that are outdated or currently inept is a good thing, he created a task force solely populated by hand picked members of the business community, and this did not go unnoticed by policy analysts: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/restructuring-government-bc
This was his task force. Not one community led, or public interest representative: https://archive.news.gov.bc.ca/releases/archive/pre2001/2001/nrs2001/ib03.asp
The result? Much of the ongoing issues in BC with tailings ponds, toxic waste disposal and other environmental protection issues can be traced back to deregulation and inadequate oversight that occured in the early 2000’s : https://thenarwhal.ca/how-b-c-outsourced-environmental-protection-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/
“A 2015 review of professional reliance by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre found that “professional reliance” was undermining the public interest.
The report concluded “that much of B.C.’s deregulation goes too far in handing over what are essentially matters of public interest to those employed by industry. Proponents should not be decision makers for matters involving the weighing and balancing of multiple, often competing, environmental and societal values.”
The solution is to actually staff the public service with professionals whose only job is to protect the public interest.
According to Wildsight, government capacity in this area has been cut by about 25 per cent since the early 2000s.
20 years after the fact, we are still seeing fallout from policy failures of the BC Liberal era under Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon. That matters immensely as more and more people flock to the warmest and most beautiful province, to live and enjoy our wild spaces.
I was happy to hear Falcon mention his achievements as transportation minister, because its in this file that when one looks past the grand announcements of the mass scale transportation projects, you see where the policy really hits taxpayers hard. Its not the sexiest stuff to read, but those projects were anything but on time and on budget, and its easy to demonstrate why the public private partnerships Falcon is such a proponent of, are actually a huge detriment to you and I in the end. It was also in this file that he oversaw the completion of the privatization of BC Rail and refused to commit to a public inquiry into the circumstances.
- Sea to Sky Highway build: P3 ( public private partnership) Announced as a $600 million build that consortium will operate for 25 years, which reduces risk to govt. In actuality, the highway has been a lucrative investment vehicle for the companies Maquarie flipped it to. https://lailayuile.com/2016/07/20/sea-to-sky-highway-project-making-money-once-again-but-not-for-the-taxpayers-of-bc/ Among the payments making it a cash cow for the private partner, are shadow tolls aka vehicle usage payments, based on size of vehicle and distance travelled. ( an entire series is on this on my Best Of page https://lailayuile.com/best-of/) These payments government makes regularly, end up costing the taxpayer far more in the long run.
- South Fraser Perimeter road: A year late and $464 million over budget. How did they claim it was on time and on budget? They change the price and completion date as they go along. The highway has been plagued with issues of leaning overpasses and massive dips and heaves, due to unstable ground ( sound familiar?) https://lailayuile.com/2013/12/21/bc-liberals-pat-themselves-on-the-back-over-sfpr-highway-opening-a-year-late-and-464-million-over-budget/ That mess was left to Todd Stone to finish after Falcon stepped down in 2012.
- Port Mann Bridge: One that stands out for many reasons, the Port Mann was originally to be a twinned bridge, but the p3 partners re-envisioned it as it is now. Except a global financial crisis hit and the private partners couldnt get financing, so Falcon proceeded as a government financed project, oddly proclaiming : “Government can build it cheaper anyways as they get lower interest rates” That project was also plagued with issues and ‘irregularties’ https://lailayuile.com/2017/09/07/everything-old-is-new-again-cbc-investigation-raises-big-questions-about-port-mann-bridge-build/
That final project, despite him stepping down before it was completed, is the kind of thing that lives as a legacy of how things purported to be amazing visions, can really cost the people that end up paying for it, one way or another. Just like his changes to Translink governance left a lasting impact. It was Falcon behind the faregate follies, and it was Falcon behind the sweeping changes at Translink that were really indicative of his style of leadership. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/major-translink-overhaul-going-ahead-1.674793
I could go on, but you get the idea. There is a lot to read on the Falcons Follies portion of my Best Of page here https://lailayuile.com/best-of/ I don’t think for a moment spending 10 years in the private sector as the executive Vice president of Athem Capital Corp, the equity wing of real estate group Anthem Properties, is something that spells renewal for the BC Liberals.
If anything,it sounds like more of the same that we saw under the last period BC Liberals were in power, when politicians in BC sold BCs real estate investment as a way of bringing in uncontrolled speculation,increased the gap between rich and poor, killing the middle class almost entirely. https://lailayuile.com/2016/07/16/affordability-crisis-what-affordability-crisis-or-why-the-bc-government-stood-by-while-rome-burned/
It doesn’t bode well having Beedie in one back pocket, and numerous Harper connected boosters in the other. Nor does it appeal that he supported Maxime Bernier in his bid for CPC leadership in 2017 – Mad Max was already showing the type of politics he was about back then.
Increasingly in politics, we see choices reduced to the lesser of two evils. This will always be the case within the BC Liberals, a party full of lifelong politicians and backroom opportunists who ooze from from one leader to another with too much ease.
Falcon though, is cunning and calculated, and will eat Horgan for lunch in any debate…and Horgan knows this. Which means that while the BC Liberals are figuring out what direction they intend to go with a leader, the BC NDP would do well to do consider the same.