Kevin Falcon is finally the BC Liberal leader.
The former Deputy Premier, Finance Minister, Health Minister and Transport Minister added another title to his political resume Feb. 5 at the Wall Centre Hotel in downtown Vancouver, after an online, ranked ballot election went five rounds.
But can he unite and rebuild the coalition of Liberals and Conservatives that struggled through the final month of the campaign under the weight of allegations of voter fraud by Falcon’s campaign staff? Who will step aside so that he can run in a by-election to get a seat in the Legislature before the next election?
Falcon won the fifth ballot with 52.19% (4,541.35 points) to runner-up Ellis Ross’s 33.65% (2,928.33). Michael Lee, who was trying again after a third-place finish in 2018, was third with 14.14% (1,230.31). Falcon was just shy of victory on the fourth ballot, with 49.63%.
Fourth-place finisher Val Litwin was eliminated with 7.21% in the penultimate round. Litwin had said a few days earlier that he would leave the party if Falcon won. The only contestant not onstage after the results were released had either stayed true to his word or didn’t want to join the maskless celebration that flouted pandemic public health orders.
“While we sometimes disagreed, we have largely done so without being disagreeable,” Falcon said about his opponents.
Falcon spent 11 years as an MLA, winning election three times in Surrey Cloverdale. He was runner-up of the 2011 leadership election to Christy Clark, as successor to his mentor Gordon Campbell.
Seven years later, a court heard that Falcon was cheated out of the job, because Clark’s campaign workers hatched a PIN number procurement scheme that appeared to lift Clark to victory.
In 2012, Falcon bowed out of politics. He embarked on a new career as a senior executive with the Anthem Realty development firm and had two daughters with his wife.
“We are at an unprecedented time in the world today, trust in politics and politicians has never been lower,” Falcon said. “Politicians make all kinds of promises, but so often nothing gets done and some people are polarized, some people are apathetic, so many more are just disillusioned with the entire political process. There is a desire like I’ve never seen before for candour, for competence and for leadership.”
Earlier in the day, a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed a petition by a BC Liberal Party member aimed at delaying the release of the results by 15 days in order to deal with alleged voter fraud. Campaign managers had complained about a process that was ripe for corruption.
Vikram Bajwa had alleged the process was tainted, but Justice Heather MacNaughton took a cautious stance.
“The evidence of irregularities offered by Mr. Bajwa is weak and much of it is not Mr. Baja’s first-hand knowledge,” said Justice Heather MacNaughton in her oral judgement. “Whether there are irregularities that could be material to the outcome of the leadership election can only be known after the leadership vote.”
MacNaughton said no election is ever perfect and Bajwa was free to challenge the results in court after the election. She said that a court would only overturn an election if the magic number test was met — “in other words, that rejected votes must equal to or outnumber the winner’s plurality.”
She also said that although a general election is not imminent, it is still important for the opposition party to have a new leader in time for the throne speech and budget.
Falcon is the full-time replacement for Andrew Wilkinson, who led the party in 2020 to its worst result in 30 years. He quit after the snap election and Shirley Bond took over on an interim basis .
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