Park Place Lodge

British Columbian’s may be disillusioned with politicians these days but George Abbott, Liberal leader hopeful was greeted warmly by Elk Valley residents this past Wednesday, January 5. Abbott was on the campaign trail and came specifically to Fernie to meet with invited guests for a luncheon at the Best Western.

George Abbott and Bill Bennett

He was accompanied by Bill Bennet who said, “I’m still in the Liberal party, my duty as MLA is to do everything to benefit my riding that means to get the best candidate elected. The party needs a shakeup, we need to listen to the people and help them find solutions. You have a right for your government to listen to you when they make decisions that impact you. George understands this is an opportunity to take the province in a different and better direction. We have a glorious opportunity to have a premier that understands rural BC, who comes from a 250 area code”.

Abbott was born and raised on the family farm in Sicamous and farmed for twenty years until elected in 1996. He has served as legislative page, regional district are rep, college teacher and MLA for Shuswap 15 years. He’s held several cabinet positions including education and health. A strong performer in Question period some consider him to be a decent and trustworthy person. His experience and attributes might be just what will land him the coveted job of premier although admitting support for the HST might likely lose him voters unless the issue is resolved this June as he would like it to be.

Abbott’s style is not flashy or forceful. His speech articulate without notes came across as sincere and earnest, determined to deliver a different type of governance than that of Mr. Campbell.

About Bennett he commented “He’s not just a good MLA he’s a great MLA, he speaks his mind, he’s been a great colleague in caucus and cabinet, he’s smart, thoughtful, a skilled politician, very good in what he takes on and a great friend to me. I am determined that we will see a prompt return to caucus and cabinet, BC people are not well served with him out, when we have division within, when we break down it’s not a happy ending, we need to see the Liberals re- elected, it’s important to have people speak their minds, we need Bennett and Lekstrom back if we are to be successful as a party. Abbot said now he’s a “sentimental farmer but for 20 years he was a real farmer”. This helped shape the way he looked at the world, for 16 years he was member and chair of the Shuswap Regional District re-elected as chair for a decade. “Thirty years of experience in political life tells me we’re in trouble, there is a real disconnect between grassroots and government, often government throws solutions on the table before telling people about the problem, we are too mainland centered at the peril of rural areas, it will be tough to get re-elected, unless we change our style, our demeanor. This begins with a new leader then the journey back to connect to people and our members will happen.

There’s lots of anger out there, we need to let people vent then build collaboratively with each other, we need our caucus to go to a different region each month, sit down with councils, regional districts, school boards, need to have action, show them we’re here to listen, we’ve changed, there is a hunger to have voices heard, ideas recongnized and embraced with a different approach. A George Abbott government will focus on resource development that means agriculture; we need to do all we can to support the farmers so their future can stay viable, forestry, mining, hydro- electric, tourism.

I want BC to be a place where my kids and yours can make a choice to where they can build a future; we need educational and training opportunities locally.” Abbott adds he’s running like he’s behind, he likes to meet people and still has the “sense of fun and magic in what he does, when it’s lost its time to get out, great campaign so far”.

The Liberal party needs to change if they are to stay afloat, British Columbians are angry as Abbott pointed out, not only about the HST but also about changes made to healthcare delivery in rural areas, secret deals regarding disposal of important provincial assets and a lack of respect shown to the people who put them in power.

George Abbott and Bill Bennett understand the mood of the electorate, let’s hope the rest of the Liberal party members do as well.

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