Mike DeJong brings cam­paign to Pen­tic­ton

Penticton Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By JAMES MILLER

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.

JAMES MILLER/Pen­tic­ton 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.

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