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Right-wing political split not welcomed by B.C. business leaders

Business community looking at Conservative/United choice with some concern
B.C. United Leader addresses the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce June 6, 2024 in Victoria. Audience were concerned about the split on the right side of the political spectrum. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Entrepreneurs are expressing different degrees of the concern about the split in B.C.'s free enterprise coalition following a speech by B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon Thursday (June 6) in Greater Victoria.

Kyara Kahakauwila, vice-president of operations for the L.A. Limousines and Transportation Services, said she liked Falcon's optimism and his use of numbers and statistics to back his arguments and deliver results.

"That is something that is important to me as a business owner, but also someone who's looking at options for future leadership in the province." 

Kahakauwila declined to reveal her current leanings. But she -— like many others — expressed concerns about vote-splitting.

"I do think the province needs a change from what we are currently at," she said. "Maybe a better scenario for the next election would be to have a minority government between B.C. United and...the B.C. Conservatives." 

Kahakauwila said B.C. United may have a new name, but the party has the institutional knowledge of the former B.C. Liberals, something that the provincial Conservatives do not have yet. But if B.C. needs some stability, it also needs some change, she added.

"We need some new ideas, we need some fresh ideas and a different way of looking at things." 

Kahakauwila and others will get a chance to hear a B.C. Conservative response when leader John Rustad speaks to the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce June 19.

Al Hasham, former chair of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and long-time owner of prominent logistics and furniture businesses, said he was really hoping to hear Falcon address the recent defections of MLAs Lorne Doerksen and Elenore Sturko to Rustad's Conservatives. 

"At the same time, I wanted to find out if the rest of his colleagues in his party have the confidence in him as a leader and will they continue having confidence or are they going between now and...October switch over or cross over to another party?"

Hasham said the business community is "definitely" paying a lot of attention to the split on the right.

"It almost feels like the (Conservatives) is the party that used to be what the B.C. Liberals were," he said. "They have all come from there. So is that going to grow? Are there going to be more people either crossing over or more people going to run for that party?" 

Falcon told reporters before his speech that he is "confident" his party won't lose any more MLAs. First during the speech, then during the question-and-answer session, he frequently contrasted his party's candidates with those of the provincial Conservatives in making the case that his party represents the middle between the extremes of the B.C. NDP on the left and the Conservatives on the right.

"I didn't buy it at all," Hasham said. If Conservatives play "their cards right and go after the right candidate to run in this election, I feel they will get to the middle where people want them to be." 

Hasham specifically pointed to Sturko's crossing.

"That was a huge gain," he said. 

Mary Lou Newbold of Mayfair Optometric Clinic said she has not gotten into conversations about the split on the right.

"That's very new, may be within the last week or so," she said. "The conversations I'm having with business owners and people in my community are just simply that...we can't afford what we are currently doing," she said.

Businesses are trying to survive, while their employees want to be able to afford groceries and gas, she added. 

"I want my employees to be able to live a good quality of life, but I also have to be able to run my business and with wages and interest rates and all those other pressures, that's hard." 

John Wilson, principal of The Wilson's Group of Companies, said Falcon made some great points.

"We are struggling as a province and...the business sector definitely needs some help, " Wilson said. "So I thought he spoke well."

But Wilson also admitted to confusion about the current state of relations between B.C. United and the provincial Conservatives.

"So I would like to see a little more work put in to see if they can find some common ground now and may be at the very least, stop slamming each other and may be work together to form government next election." 

Wilson, who has also chaired the chamber, echoed concerns about vote-splitting.

"I really, really worry about splitting the vote," Wilson said. "He (Falcon) has some common sense solutions, but so does John Rustad. So if we can find some common ground with those common sense solutions, we could see a very interesting campaign and election coming up in October."

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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