Mike DeJong brings campaign to Penticton
Mike DeJong is proud of his record as finance minister, proud of the record of the BC Liberals.
But for the first time in 16 years he finds himself in unfamiliar territory — the Opposition benches.
“There are still some people in the party who think we can wake up and it will have all been a bad dream,” DeJong said in an interview with The Herald. “It’s not a dream, it’s reality and we have to work to regain the right to govern."
DeJong is one of eight candidates seeking to replace Christy Clark as leader of the party and the only candidate in the race who previously participated in a leadership convention back in 2011 when he and two others lost to Clark.
DeJong has spent the past several days in the Okanagan drumming up support. He made a 90-minute stop at Painted Rock Winery in Penticton, Wednesday, where he met with party faithfuls. Among those in attendance were retired MLAs Bill Barisoff and Rick Thorpe and present MLA Dan Ashton, who has remained noncommittal on the leadership race.
“This is our opportunity to reconnect, to re-engage and that will serve us well going forward,” DeJong said. “We were good government. B.C. is in first place today in all of the categories that matter most because of the partnership we formed with the private sector and the people who took us there.
“We created the most jobs anywhere in the country. The balance sheet is the envy of the nation. We have the credit rating that allows us to borrow money for things like hospitals at the lowest rates available on the world market. We achieved all that and we can be proud of that.”
The MLA from Abbostford has held a large number of key cabinet posts throughout his 23-year political career including Attorney General, Solicitor General, and minister of forests, Aboriginal relations and reconciliation, and labour. He believes his experience is a definite selling point to Liberal voters, who will decide on a new leader in February.
“It’s not just eight candidates but good, quality people. The brand is strong and that’s the strength of our organization. We need someone who has experience, who has passion, and who can reconnect with people. We need a captain who can first of all hold the NDP to account and secondly present a vision to British Columbians as to where the free enterprise party wants to take the province. I think I possess the right combination.”
DeJong left the job of finance minister with a healthy surplus and now fears the NDP will return to their ways of the 1990s “when people were leaving and job opportunities and investment disappeared.”
“We left B.C. in far better shape than we found it and in a whole lot of ways. What is frustrating is not that a new government is making spending decisions, which is their right, but watching as the new government begins to dismantle the very formula that got us there.
“In a year when Minister (Carole) James and Premier (John) Horgan admitted things were better than they thought they would be, when the government is awash in additional unanticipated revenues, they chose to raise your taxes.”
On losing power in last spring’s election, DeJong described it as “challenges of growth.”
:Some people in other parts of the province felt we didn’t respond quickly enough to challenges of growth. The other side is the challenges of the 1990s but I'd rather have to deal with the challenges from growth any day.”
DeJong was one of two candidates visiting Penticton on Wednesday. Dianne Watts met with supporters at the Ramada Inn.
Coverage of her visit will appear in Friday’s print edition of The Herald.
Mike DeJong, left, candidate for the leaderhsip of the BC Liberal party shares a moment with MLA Dan Ashton, centre, and Orv Robson from Summerland, Wednesday evening at Painted Rock Winery in Penticton.