Watts preparing for Liberal leadership?
The will-she-or-won’t-she saga of Mayor Watts’ jump to provincial politics is on once again, thanks to a new report from Frances Bula. Watts is purportedly the originator of the new Mayor’s Caucus at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities, a group whose utility some are questioning. It has been rumoured that as Chair of the Caucus, Watts is branching out her network beyond the Lower Mainland, and making deeper connections across the province. As Bula points out, it is not too dissimilar from the strategy Gordon Campbell pursued while still Mayor of Vancouver before becoming the leader of the Liberals.
Mayor Watts was repeatedly suggested as a leadership candidate during the 2010 convention, but chose to remain in municipal politics to complete unfinished business. She has previously stated that she only intends to remain Mayor for three terms, the third of which she is currently fulfilling.
While recent events in provincial politics have proven that predictions 7 months from an election are anything but sound, there is one clear scenario in which Mayor Watts could make the jump to Victoria. If Christy Clark’s Liberals lose the election, it is probable the knives will be out for Clark, who has consistently failed to produce the leadership or vision British Columbians are seeking. With almost one third of Liberal MLAs retiring, the party will require a period of renewal, both in terms of policy and membership, as well as leadership.
Watts’ practical, partnership driven brand fuses Gordon Campbell’s substance with Christy Clark’s style, providing the party with the best of both past leaders. With safe Liberal seats in South Surrey-White Rock and Cloverdale, Watts could secure either riding in a by-election. Watts’ most significant leadership opponent would appear to be Langley MLA Rich Coleman, who did not run in 2010 and supported Falcon. Pitting Coleman against Watts would provide two clear directions for the party, one reflecting the partisan Conservative, the other the pragmatic Liberal.
As we have consistently stated in previous posts, we here at Civic Surrey believe that Watts could help Surrey far more successfully in Victoria than at City Hall. Surrey’s most significant issues – transportation, education, and infrastructure – cannot be solved at the municipal level without the support of the provincial government. Having Watts at the helm of the legislature would ensure that these outstanding dilemmas could finally be resolved, and the Mayor could complete her unfinished business.