BC Liberal Party leadership candidate Val Litwin. (Contributed)

BC Liberal leadership candidate to talk party renewal in Kelowna

Val Litwin says Liberals must be both fiscally responsible and embrace social conscious issues

At least one BC Liberal Party leadership candidate feels the party has to redefine its political identity.

Val Litwin is one of six candidates vying to be party leader, running on a platform that extends beyond the party’s historic trademark of positive economic stewardship.

“I am a believer in fiscal responsibility but that is only half the formula now for any political party,” said Litwin.

“If we are serious about forming the next government in 2024, I say to people now we have to be a socially conscious party ready to address issues like housing affordability, mental health and climate control.”

Litwin will bring his message of party renewal to local Liberal supporters on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 5-7 p.m., at Copper Brewing in downtown Kelowna.

READ MORE: Kelowna-Mission MLA announces Liberal leadership bid

Litwin says bluntly the BC Liberal Party has fallen out of date with what voters are demanding from government today.

While the party retains a strong following across the Interior, it has lost major ground to the NDP in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island, support which enabled the NDP to win a majority government in the election last year.

How to change that political map landscape, Litwin says, starts with acknowledging 61 per cent of B.C.’s population is under the age of 40, recognizing that hyper-partisan politics turn voters off, and the desire to embrace a new vision of the province’s socio-economic future.

“One of the big questions I am often asked is if there is still room for a centrist party in B.C. and yes I think there is. The NDP are not adequate caretakers to creating a robust economy for our future.

“I feel if we take the long-term view we can knock it out of the park for all parts of B.C. over the next 10, 15, 25 years.”

While fiscal responsibility has been a hallmark of BC Liberal Party members, he wants to position himself as being at the forefront of reinvigorating the party with new ideas to improve the party’s chances of winning the 2024 provincial election.

He offers the analogy comparison of the pop window on your smartphone telling you to download a new operating system, and you keep clicking to remind me later.

“This party has been clicking remind me later for years now, and this is now the opportunity to download that new operating system,” he said.

While Litwin, who grew up in Victoria, offers a fresh face to B.C. politics, he is familiar with the issues from “working in the trenches” of public policy both in Ottawa and Victoria.

As CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce in recent years, Litwin said that job called on him to support and report to 125 chambers of commerce and boards of trade across the province, listening to the concerns of business owners and communicating those concerns to the provincial government.

“I understand what keeps business owners up at night and the government has to support them to help rebuild a strong, inclusive, diversified economy. I feel our secret sauce for that is to embrace change and bring something new to the table.”

A host site for the Liberal leadership convention has not yet been selected, but the convention itself will take place Feb. 4-5, 2022.

Other candidates

Val Litwin is one of six candidates seeking to be the next leader of the BC Liberal Party.

The other candidates are:

• Kevin Falcon: former minister of finance, health and transportation in the Liberal governments of premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark; he ran for party leadership in 2011 and lost to Clark.

• Michael Lee: a current Vancouver riding Liberal MLA who previously ran for BC Liberals leadership but was defeated by former leader Andrew Wilkinson.

• Gavin Dew: Vancouver entrepreneur

• Ellis Ross: Skeena riding MLA and former chief of Kitimat’s Haisla Nation.

• Renee Merrifield: Newly elected Kelowna-Mission MLA in last election and Kelowna development entrepreneur, she was the party health critic until her leadership candidacy required her to give up that role.