SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Former Surrey mayor and Conservative MP Dianne Watts has made it official. She is joining the race for leadership of the BC Liberals.
— Hana Mae N. Nassar (@HanaMaeNassar) September 24, 2017
Watts, the MP for South Surrey-White Rock, made the jump to federal politics in 2015, and last served as the Official Opposition Critic for Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour.
“After much consideration, I have decided to seek the leadership of the BC Liberal Party. I have served in public office as a city councillor, mayor and Member of Parliament, and I believe that I can bring a much-needed new vision and common sense approach to the BC Liberal party,” says Watts, who plans to also resign as federal MP. “I don’t think that it’s fair that I have one foot in Ottawa and one foot here.”
Some argue Watts is a favourite in this run, but others say she’s been noticeably absent lately.
“I hope we’ll find out why she has been such a stranger to the BC Liberal party over the years,” says Mike de Jong, Liberal MLA for Abbotsford West. “There were times when this year we could’ve used all the help we could get in Surrey.”
However, Watts says she’s been hard at work. “I was sitting in the House of Commons doing the job the taxpayers paid me to do. I think they’d be terribly offended if I left the House of Commons in Ottawa.”
Political expert weighs in
University of Victoria Political Scientist Michael Prince says some may say she’s a front-runner, but not everyone in the party is going to throw their support behind her. He says those questioning her recent absence, for example, may be hesitant.
Prince says her past political history may make her a bit of an outsider with a different vision to shake up the party. “On the other hand, some people may have a sense of deja-vu of this is what Christy Clark was. She was the outsider who came in and polls suggested she was the front runner and she did will and won the party power in 2013, I guess — defying the odds.”
Watts was the mayor of Surrey from 2005 until 2014.
Former Vancouver mayor and Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan is also going for the top job. Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, is set to announce he’s in the running this week, and Prince thinks he’s the one to beat.
The BC Liberals have announced there will be six debates for the leadership job — the first one is happening on October 15th in Surrey.