BC Liberal leadership candidate Mike de Jong says last June’s throne speech was the work of Christy Clark and dismayed many party members. File photo BC Liberal leadership candidate Mike de Jong says last June’s throne speech was the work of Christy Clark and dismayed many party members. File photo

Experience not a bad thing for leadership bid, De Jong says

Former Finance Minister disavows last year’s ‘clone speech’

Two decades of experience in the B.C. Legislature is an asset, not a liability, for a party seeking renewal.

That’s the pitch Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong is making to BC Liberals as his campaign to lead his party enters its final weeks.

Speaking to The News in a wide-ranging interview last week, de Jong pledged to focus on education initiatives and government decentralization. He also disavowed last year’s so-called “clone speech” that followed last year’s election, while predicting that British Columbia’s economy will fall into disrepair under an NDP government.

De Jong was first elected in 1994 and was a fixture of BC Liberal cabinets dating back to 2001. Prior to the BC Liberals ouster, he served for five years as Christy Clark’s Minister of Finance, one of the most-prominent roles in government.

But de Jong, who says the first job of a new leader “is to re-energize our party” is hoping BC Liberals will see that experience to be of value when they cast their votes in early February.

“I know what it takes to rebuild a party after an election loss,” he said. And while he says he’s clearly not everybody’s first choice, de Jong is optimistic that the ranked ballot format will benefit him and allow him to pick up large numbers of second-choice votes.

As for appealing to the broader public, de Jong said his party shouldn’t try to be something they’re not.

“I think our record as a government and my record as a manager of the economy and a manager of the people’s money is solid,” although he said the election shows not all were satisfied. “Clearly we weren’t perfect.”

But last June’s failed throne speech that seemed to borrow from policies touted by the Green Party and the NDP was a folly, de Jong now says.

Although a press release issued by Abbotsford’s MLAs at the time declared “Throne Speech strikes a balance for Abbotsford and Mission,” de Jong said last week that the speech was Clark’s creation.

“I think that document strayed too far from what I believe we represent as a party,” he said. “Finance ministers write budgets and premiers write throne speeches and that particular throne speech is one that I don’t think could or should guide our party going forward.”

As leader, de Jong said he’d focus on broadening the availability of education, by giving each child $500 a year to go into a Registered Education Savings Plan, and by providing kindergarten to four-year-old children. He also says the province should look at decentralizing ministries and agencies that would be better located outside of Victoria.

He noted that the Ministry of Agriculture, for one, “could function very well headquartered in Abbotsford.”

The News also asked de Jong about comments made by his erstwhile BC Liberal colleague, Darryl Plecas, who was removed from the party after accepting an offer to become Speaker of the legislature.

Plecas had said he was “always in trouble” with Clark and her leadership team for expressing views that differed from the party line. De Jong, who has been House Leader of the BC Liberals for years, said the party has consistently allowed free votes in the legislature and that the only requirement for party MLAs who disagree with policy is for advance notice.

Asked about his relationship with Plecas, de Jong said, cooly, that he has “the respect for the office of speaker that the office requires.”

 

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson (centre) watches colleague Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong deliver a speech at a campaign breakfast last spring spring. File photo

Just Posted

UPDATE: Dozens of farmworkers displaced after fire tears through building

Flames broke out Thursday morning in building that housed up to 80 workers at Abbotsford farm

Gerda Peachey to run for mayor’s seat

Community activist rails against raising of pride flag in 2015 and increased development

UPDATE: 83-year-old convicted murderer back in custody

Mission RCMP have located Ralph Whitfield Morris who escaped Mission Institution earlier today

Chilliwack RCMP seek shoplifting suspect caught on video

Man allegedly connected to automobile theft in Abbotsford, shoplifting in Langley

Abbotsford student hopes colourful chalk can bring online dialogue to ‘real life’

Anni Wust’s “forum board” aims to kickstart community conversations in Mill Lake Park

VIDEO: B.C. ‘escapologist’ stuns judges on Britain’s Got Talent

Matt Johnson says televised water stunt was closest he’s come to death

NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

Britain gives long-lost Franklin expedition ships to Canada, Inuit

Deeds to HMS Erebus and HMS Terror signed over to Canada and Inuit Heritage Trust

Grief over deadly Toronto van attack sinks in

Three days after rampage, people still gathering at memorial to lay flowers and honour victims

Liberals urged to tax e-commerce services like Netflix

Trudeau has been adamant that his government wouldn’t increase taxes on online subscriptions

Why some B.C. daycares didn’t opt in to subsidy program

Deadline passes for program aimed at laying foundation for universal child care

WATCH: Moms Stop The Harm respond to opioid crisis

Someone asked her if she does the work for her son. McBain said: “No, actually. I do it for your son.”

Been a long day? Here’s cute puppies in training

Group is training next batch of assistance dogs at Vancouver International Airport

Justin Beaver reunited with parks staff in Chilliwack

Fraser Valley Regional District put out call earlier this month for the return of teaching tool

Most Read