Watts quit day job to seek leadership of Liberal party
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.”
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.