The B.C. Liberal Party flexed it’s political muscle in the Chilliwack-Hope riding Saturday drawing a 250-plus crowd to acclaim Laurie Throness as the party’s byelection candidate.
Premier Christy Clark kicked off the meeting with a fiery campaign-style speech calling for support of the “thin blue line” of the free-enterprise coalition to stop the New Democrats.
“The NDP is making promises they can’t pay for,” she said. “We will be honest about what we can and cannot do.”
Former Conservative MP Chuck Strahl repeated the theme of the need for a conservative alliance as he introduced Throness to a standing ovation.
Neither Clark nor Strahl predicated a cakewalk to victory in this staunchly conservative riding.
“This is a ground war,” Strahl exhorted the crowd, asking them to talk up the B.C. Liberal record around office water coolers, and to “roll up their sleeves” and volunteer their time during the byelection campaign.
“We know what the stakes are, we know the opportunity that’s ours, if we play our cards right,” he said.
Clark said the free-enterprise coalition needs to stand together to win the byelection, pointing out that byelections are traditionally unfavourable to governing parties.
“This is going to be a tough byelection to win,” she said. “We are really going to have to sweat to make this happen.”
Throness said in his acceptance speech that B.C. “can’t afford” an NDP government based on democratic-socialist principles as set out in the party’s constitution.
“I thought socialism had gone out of style, along with disco boots and banana bikes,” he said.
A strong Liberal/Conservative alliance is needed to keep the NDP from forming government as a new economic storm looms on the horizon, he said.
“Now is not the time to hand the keys of the treasury to a party that’s stuck in the past … that can only spend other people’s money,” he said.
Throness said in the upcoming byelection campaign he will “boldly defend” the B.C. Liberal economic record, which shows the government is “doing better” than the federal Conservatives and still spending more on health and social programs “than ever before.”
“We are going to continue to provide for British Columbians in need,” he said.
Dale Wheeldon, president of the riding’s constituency association, said after the meeting that he was pleased with the “fantastic” turn-out at what was billed as a “Super Saturday” blitz to kick off the party’s byelection campaign.
He also repeated the theme of the need for a conservative coalition to fend off the NDP.
“We need a coalition of right-wing conservatives and Liberals to support free-enterprise under one banner to defeat the NDP in this riding,” he said.