Watts quit day job to seek lead­er­ship of Lib­eral party

Penticton Herald - - CITY - By JOE FRIES

Ig­nor­ing com­mon ad­vice, Dianne Watts has quit her day job to seek the lead­er­ship of the BC Lib­eral Party.

The pop­u­lar for­mer mayor of Sur­rey gave up her lat­est gig as a Con­ser­va­tive MP when she an­nounced in Septem­ber she would be at­tempt­ing a leap to pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics.

“It’s a prin­ci­pled is­sue,” Watts said Wed­nes­day dur­ing a cam­paign stop in Pen­tic­ton.

“If I was go­ing to un­der­take this task, I needed to give it 100 per cent. And I felt that it wouldn’t be fair to the con­stituents if I had one foot in Ottawa and was spend­ing my time out here.”

Watts has since be­gun tour­ing the prov­ince in a bid to hit all 87 rid­ings be­fore BC Lib­er­als pick their new leader Feb. 3.

She said she spent “a good deal” of her child­hood sum­mers in Pen­tic­ton, plus grad­u­ated from Kelowna Sec­ondary School, so she’s fa­mil­iar with the Okana­gan.

And the is­sues she’s hear­ing about out­side the Lower Main­land are sim­i­lar to what she grap­pled with in Sur­rey: wait­ing lists for health care, a lack of fam­ily doc­tors, a short­age of ren­tal hous­ing and over­all af­ford­abil­ity.

“So there are some com­mon is­sues that I think we re­ally need to take a hard look at and see how we can bet­ter work with the may­ors and coun­cils and re­ally have a good, solid foun­da­tion and re­la­tion­ship, and make sure we’re build­ing com­mu­nity,” Watts said.

If se­lected to helm the party, she will be go­ing up against newly minted NDP Premier John Hor­gan, with whom she has lit­tle in com­mon from a po­lit­i­cal per­spec­tive.

“His ide­ol­ogy is so­cial­ism; mine is not. Mine is free en­ter­prise and re­ally em­pow­er­ing peo­ple,” said Watts, who de­scribed her­self as a so­cially pro­gres­sive small-C con­ser­va­tive.

“So there are a mul­ti­tude of is­sues that dif­fer­en­ti­ate us,” she con­tin­ued. “One is bal­anced bud­gets – not spend­ing beyond our means – and one is grow­ing the econ­omy and cre­at­ing jobs.”

Pen­tic­ton also re­ceived vis­its this week from Lib­eral lead­er­ship con­tenders Michael Lee and Mike de Jong.

Mayor An­drew Jakubeit is wait­ing un­til the field has nar­rowed be­fore at­tempt­ing to bend the can­di­dates’ ears.

“We’re will­ing to meet with any group or party to dis­cuss con­cerns,” he said, “but this right now is just can­di­dates’ meet-and-greets and they haven’t reached out to the city.”

JOE FRIES/Pen­tic­ton Her­ald

Pen­tic­ton res­i­dents Don Collins, Judy Lloyd and Rick Rid­dall chat Wed­nes­day with BC Lib­eral lead­er­ship can­di­date Dianne Watts dur­ing a cam­paign stop at the Ket­tle Val­ley Sta­tion Pub at the Ra­mada Inn.

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