By Laura Keil, Editor/Publisher

The BC Liberals are working on a new vision for the party, after their big defeat in October’s provincial election where they lost 13 seats and the winning NDP gained 16.

In last week’s Goat article on this subject, Martyn Brown, a former advisor to three provincial Liberal leaders said Interim Leader Shirley Bond has to embrace the values that small ‘l’ liberals hold in the more urban and sub-coastal regions. In October’s election, the NDP snagged traditionally Liberal seats in Vancouver, Surrey and even the Fraser Valley, long considered bastions of Liberal voters.

Something went wrong. But what?

As reported in last week’s Goat, the BC Liberal party has struck a committee to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the party’s campaign and they are reaching out to the public for feedback on the party.

One recent article said the name “Liberal Party” should change in order to codify the difference between the BC Liberals and the federal Liberals, which hold very different views and policies (the BC Liberals being much more conservative).

Let’s hope the name issue doesn’t waste any of their time. The name is not the problem. If it were, the existing BC Conservative Party would have oustered the Liberals. People aren’t stupid.

What the Liberal Party needs is a paradigm shift. A way of looking at fiscal responsibility and the economy that involves real people with real problems.

As Brown noted, the Liberals need to be more respectful of the diversity of British Columbia and “really hit on the human issues, the human values, that the BC Liberal Party is supposed to represent,” values he said were largely absent under Wilkinson and Christy Clark.

I couldn’t agree more. The Liberals have long been the party of business. The trouble with the party as I see it, is the disconnect between their policies and the actual needs of businesspeople. Note that I said businesspeople and not businesses.

Real people with real problems run businesses. You can beat a drum all day saying you’re pro-small business, but if you don’t solve the problems small business owners face, they will vote for someone else.
In a CBC article from October, Simon Fraser University Prof. Sanjay Jeramas said the Liberals must maintain the right and centre coalition “by continuing to keep the party as the voice of fiscal conservatives, supporters of entrepreneurs and small business.”

What needs to happen and is for the BC Liberals’ heads to explode (figuratively, not literally) by realizing that daycare, seniors care and affordable housing ARE economic development. And green initiatives ARE fiscally responsible.

40% of business owners and entrepreneurs in B.C. are women. And roughly half of Canadian employees are women. If women who want to work, or return to work, can’t do so because they are caring for children, caring for aging parents or unable to find housing, it gums up the whole economy. And it creates major disruptions on businesses who rely on their existing trained employees.

As a business owner who took a 1-week maternity leave in order to keep my business going, I can attest to the difficult decisions I was forced to make as a manager and mother when I had my daughter in 2016. Though overall

I’ve been extremely blessed, the fluctuating and limited childcare options have still at times added stress, large childcare bills and interfered with my ability to work. I’ve also had a key employee leave due to housing and lack of childcare.

Luckily there’s a new housing and daycare development in the works for Valemount now, which should be ready in 2022. And a 13-unit affordable housing building, initiated by a local non-profit when the Liberals were in power, should be ready within a year.

Paying a few extra dollars of carbon tax on my newspaper deliveries pales in comparison with these other major problems for me as a business owner.

Fiscal responsibility must also account for long-term costs and gains. Something may be costly this year, but if it saves double what it costs in 5 years’ time, it is a sound investmentâ€you can think of early childhood education, childcare, addiction treatment, housing, you name it.

All political parties must understand the long-term payoffsâ€or costsâ€of their policies and help the public understand what is truly a good investment. For instance, environmental degradation is not a “fiscally responsible” move. It merely pushes costs into the future, a rising debt that someone will eventually pay for, in money or in consequences (Green ventures are also a fast-growing industry and investment could bring huge dollars to BC).

So how will the BC Liberals differentiate themselves from the NDP and Greens?

“Cutting red tape” used to be the mantra of the Liberals and I think with an increasingly complex business landscape with layers of governments, including First Nations, this is an area that could use some help. Streamlining processes, making good on promises with First Nations and ensuring there’s a reliable process for developments would go far in improving BC’s economy.

The Liberals could also champion green policies from the business angle, ensuring BC companies can compete for international investment dollars.

When the BC Liberals unveil their new vision, I hope they’ve reframed what “pro-business” and “fiscal responsibility” really meanâ€based on real British Columbians and 21st century needs.