VIDEO: MP Dianne Watts announces bid for BC Liberal leadership

Stepping down as Conservative South-Surrey White Rock MP for provincial leadership bid

Following weeks of speculation, Conservative MP Dianne Watts has officially thrown her hat into the BC Liberal Party leadership race.

In a much-hyped announcement in Surrey on Sunday afternoon, Watts told an invitation-only room of supporters that it was time to “bring our province back from a coalition government that is not only unstable, but determined to raise taxes, gut our natural resource sector and drive jobs and investment out of this province.”

WATCH: Dianne Watts announces her bid for BC Liberal Party leadership

www.facebook.com

Watts joins a growing list of leadership candidates that includes Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan and Terrace business owner Lucy Sager.

She will step down from her role as South Surrey White Rock MP, triggering a byelection. According to Elections Canada, the most recent federal byelection, which took place in Alberta, cost taxpayers $1.2 million.

When asked for his thoughts on Watts’s bid, former finance minister Mike de Jong questioned her timing.

“I hope we’ll find out why she’s been such a stranger to the BC Liberal Party over the years,” said Abbotsford West MLA de Jong. “There were times when this year we could have used all the help we could get in Surrey.”

De Jong declined to comment on whether he would run for BC Liberals leadership but hinted that he thought “there will be more entrants in that race in the days ahead.”

READ: All eyes on Watts

Watts, who was Surrey’s mayor from 2005-2014 before becoming MP in 2015, leaned heavily on her time in civic politics while making her leadership pitch.

“We created and built a city from the ground up,” Watts said. “We worked with investors, community groups to build an iconic downtown core.”

She lauded her city council’s homelessness and housing strategy, noting that “still to this day, it gives people a safe place to live.”

READ: Ex-Surrey mayor Dianne Watts top pick to lead BC Liberals, says poll

Watts admitted that the BC Liberals ended up with a “disconnect” with B.C. voters that the party will have to address. She admitted that past premier Christy Clark’s Throne speech was “confusing” for voters because it incorporated platform promises from the NDP and the BC Greens.

“We have to reconnect, we have to create and build a new future and a new vision together,” said Watts. “I believe that a strong economy and a balanced budget must have a purpose and that purpose has to be our children, our families, our seniors and those who are our most vulnerable.”

It was a speech that echoed ones given by Clark, who played up the BC Liberals’ economic prowess and the benefits to the province’s families during the 2017 election campaign.

Clark resigned as party leader in August after a partnership between the NDP and the Greens gave a vote of non-confidence to her throne speech. NDP leader John Horgan was sworn in as premier in mid-July.

Watts had harsh words for the new provincial government. In a scrum following the speech, she called it “wrong.”

“In just a few weeks, the NDP-Green coalition have chased away billions of dollars in investment and job creation,” Watts said, citing carbon tax, income tax and business tax increases.

“Where’s that money going? What’s the plan? It’s a mystery.”

twitter.com

She acknowledged the need for campaign finance reform but said she didn’t believe the new government was going about it properly.

Watts said that under her watch, the BC Liberals would take on softwood tariffs and pine beetles that she said have taken a toll on the forestry sector. She told the room she would fight to help B.C.’s forests recover from what has been a record-breaking wildfire season in which over a million hectares has been lost.

twitter.com

She promised a better seat at the table for municipalities, especially in the fight against the overdose crisis and in upcoming marijuana legalization. The province’s local governments have made legal pot a key issue at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver this week.

“When marijuana is sold in communities, those dollars need to stay in those communities,” Watts said. “Additional policing for impaired driving, the distribution, sales and regulation are all additional costs.”

READ: B.C. cities want more money, and more talk, on legal pot

Watts said that B.C. needed to take a “multi-faceted approach” to an opioid crisis that has claimed 876 lives in 2017 so far. That approach “includes support for parents, for recovery centres, therapeutic communities, treatment options.”

In the Lower Mainland, where the Liberals lost seats South of the Fraser to the NDP’s promises of lower tolls and better transit funding, Watts said she would focus on transportation.

“Rapid transit lines need to be built right now,” she said, referring to light rail planned for Surrey and Langley.

twitter.com

READ: Watts plans ‘important announcement’ for Sunday in Surrey

More to come.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

MP Dianne Watts celebrates with supporters after announcing her BC Liberal leadership bid. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

MP Dianne Watts celebrates with supporters after announcing her BC Liberal leadership bid. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

MP Dianne Watts celebrates with supporters after announcing her BC Liberal leadership bid. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Just Posted

Long wait to reopen is over for Sidney gym

Owner of Sidney’s Anytime Fitness expects safety measures to be in place for some time

VIDEO: Langford man battling cancer honored with hot rod, motorcycle procession

Friends and family support Patrick O’Hara on his 73rd birthday

Langford Fire calm mother and daughter after being trapped in elevator

Three-year-old girl given stuffed animal to calm nerves

‘Seven baths in two days’: Homeless adjusting to life in hotels

Victoria passes motion to allow camping 24-7 in parks until June 25

Capital Regional District prepares to reopen regional campgrounds

Camping will look different at Island View, Sooke Potholes, Jordan River sites

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read