Opinion

COLUMN: Falcon's farewell

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Kevin Falcon has been one of the hardest-working Liberal MLAs and cabinet ministers, and he's done a great deal for Surrey and Langley.

His decision to step down as finance minister and not run again in the 2013 provincial election is partially based on having a young family, as he said Wednesday, but it is also with an eye to the future.

The BC Liberals have almost no hope of winning the next election, and their very survival as a party is in doubt. The rise of the BC Conservatives under John Cummins has led to almost half of the former Liberal voters going with them, according to the polls. Even if that number shrinks by quite a bit, it is obvious that the fight between the Liberals and Conservatives will elect a whole lot of NDP MLAs.

The best example of what will likely happen was in the Chilliwack byelection a few months ago, where the NDP won a seat the party has never held.

Falcon can read polls as well as anyone. He also knows that a general election is much different than either a by-election or whatever the latest polls say. But as long as the Conservatives run candidates in all ridings, and poll at least five per cent province-wide, the Liberals cannot win.

My best guess is this — Falcon will take a private-sector job, but will keep his political options on the back burner. He's young enough that he can still return to the provincial fray.

He has been an excellent Surrey-Cloverdale MLA — I speak as one of his constituents who has been more than satisfied with the attention he has paid to this riding.

He has done excellent work on the deregulation side, as transportation minister and most recently as finance minister. He had a great shot at the Liberal leadership, and came second to Christy Clark. While he may have made a better leader, the fact is any new leader had to deal with so much baggage from the past 10 years that it would have been difficult to survive the election.

One of Falcon's best moves in government may not get much attention from the provincial media, but deserves a mention. When he was transportation minister, he ordered that the sale of the BC Rail Port subdivision, which runs between Cloverdale and Deltaport, not go ahead. This was after it became clear that the sale of the main BC Rail operations had not been handled well by the government. Any sale of the Port subdivision would almost certainly have some serious scandal attached to it. It remains the sole piece of BC Rail trackage still operated by the provincial Crown corporation.

The entire BC Rail sale will be fully examined by an inquiry which will almost certainly be set up soon after the next election, and when it finally reports, I predict that Falcon will be one of the few ministers from the initial Gordon Campbell cabinet whose integrity remains intact.

One of his low blows was when he called the decision by voters in last year's referendum to go back to the provincial sales tax "dumb." Voters are always right, and elected officials who decry them don't understand how our system is supposed to work. He is correct that the HST would have been a more efficient sales tax, but his government mishandled the entire issue from beginning to end. That's why voters spanked them soundly. That's why the PST is coming back. It may not be the best tax around, but the decision wasn't dumb.

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