Saturday, 22 January 2011

Business-community support gives Falcon his wings

Christy Clark leads the opinion polls among candidates for the B.C. Liberal leadership. George Abbott is well positioned as the compromise choice.

Mike de Jong is the sleeper, whose vote tally may well surprise his rivals. Moira Stilwell and Ed Mayne are the undisputed also-rans.

But Kevin Falcon stands out from the six-pack of leadership hopefuls in one regard -- endorsements from the business community.
The Falcon campaign has been trumpeting its support from business and corporate leaders in a series of press releases.

Each sets out the latest inductees into Falcon 20/20, described as "a group of B.C. business people who believe that Kevin Falcon's experience and vision for B.C. make him the clear choice to be the best premier."

The 20/20 moniker -- a play on the slogan "clear vision, clear choice" -- echoes the Top 20, the group of corporate leaders that backed Social Credit during the Bill Bennett era.

Falcon is an unabashed admirer of Bennett and cites him as a leadership model in a recent video where he tries to underscore the differences between his more team-oriented leadership style and that of the current premier, Gordon Campbell.

But where the names of Bennett's Top 20 were kept secret (until leaked to Vancouver Sun columnist Marjorie Nichols during the 1986 Socred leadership race), the members of Falcon's 20/20 are a matter of public record.

The group is chaired by Ryan Beedie, president of the Beedie Group, one of the province's largest developers of industrial property and one-time would-be buyer of the Vancouver Canucks along with Tom Gaglardi.

Also a member of Falcon's 20/20 is Gaglardi, chairman and chief executive officer of Sandman Hotels, grandson of the legendary Social Credit highways minister, "Flying" Phil Gaglardi.

Other key members: Kyle Washington, Seaspan International. Christian Chia, Open Road auto dealerships. Terry McBride, Nettwerk Music. Cam McNeill, MAC Marketing home builders. Roger Hardy, Coastal Contacts/ Clearly Contacts.

Peter Armstrong, Rocky Mountaineer tourist train. John O'Neill, O'Neill hotels and resorts. Restaurateurs Stan Fuller (Earl's), Jeff Fuller (Joey's), David Aisenstat (Keg), Rick Jaffray (Cactus Club) and Emad Yacoub (Glowbal).

Plus, in no particular order: Carolyn Cross, Ondine Biomedical. Samir Manji, Amica Mature Lifestyles. Matt Young, Innovative Fitness. Zahra Mamdani, Wear Else Fashions. Paolo Kalaw, Frontier Dental labs. Tom Greenough, Tom Tar Roofing. Eric Carlson, Anthem Properties.

Sarah MacNeill, MacNeill Yakamoto Recruitment. Rob Macdonald, Macdonald Development real estate. Jeff Booth, Build Direct building materials. Salim Karim, Inn House Retail. Jim Case, Travelers Financial. Paul Hemsley, Hemmera environmental consultants.

Leah Costello, Curious Mind Productions. John Vickerstaff, Network Bonding and Insurance. Bob Cross, Bankers Petroleum. Lance Sparling, Wakefield Home Builders. Lorraine Cunningham, Cunningham Group. Tom Kramer, Canadian Utility Construction. Steve Ashforth, Glastech Contracting.

George Horie, Sanctuary TV series. Martin Charlwood, Uniglobe Travel. Chuck van der Lee, Ananda Holdings, restaurants. Greg Fleck, Service Works Distribution. Tina Osen, HUB International insurance brokers. Riaz Pisani, Contac Services online supply management.

Christopher Philps, Fairborne Homes. John Frostad, Shearers Foods. Suki Sekhon, CRS real estate. John Pacey, Verathon Medical. Holly Gordon, iPOWOW online market research. Steven Dean, Oceanic Iron Ore. Glenn Bailey, Bailey Group business consultants. Sam Gudewill, Pacific Group. Roger Finnie, Pemberton Insurance. Eric Savics, Haywood Securities.

The press releases tout Falcon as the get-things-done guy in the Liberal government, which readily explains his attraction to business leaders. But being top-heavy with such connections also makes him a target for accusations that he'll favour business over the public interest.

Indeed the New Democratic Party Opposition pounced on Friday, noting that a charter member of the Falcon 20/20, Roger Hardy, was urging customers of his Clearly Contacts business to join the Liberals and vote for Kevin Falcon.

The firm, as the New Democrats noted, had already benefited from a Falcon-led decision to relax regulations regarding sale of glasses and contacts. True, though as Hardy noted in his letter to customers, the change also benefited consumers.

"Today, thanks to legislation introduced by the B.C. Liberal Party last year, the doors have been opened to competition in our industry, dramatically reducing the price of contact lenses [and] eyeglasses. This legislation will save British Columbians millions of dollars over the next five years." Then the pitch to join the party -- "it takes two minutes and costs only $10" -- and vote for his man Falcon, "a candidate with experience and a willingness to make changes that require leadership, and benefit all British Columbians."

Hardy's is just one of the 49 names on Falcon's list. Look for the New Democrats to open a file on each of them, just in case Corporate Kevin proves to be as popular with Liberal members as he is with the business sector.

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