BC Liberal leadership candidates square off in their final debate, Jan. 23, 2018. (Facebook)

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates get one last prime-time pitch

Leadership campaign to be decided in Feb. 3 vote

The six candidates vying for the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party made their final public push for party member support Tuesday evening in a prime-time TV debate.

Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong, Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan, former Surrey mayor and MP Dianne Watts and Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson are vying for the support of 60,000 party members. Half of those members have been signed up since former premier Christy Clark resigned in the wake of the B.C. Liberal government’s defeat last summer.

RELATED: B.C. Liberal hopefuls lay out their platforms

As in previous leadership debates, Watts was under fire from the start. De Jong zeroed in on her campaign platform, which pledged that the province would stop taking revenue from Crown corporations.

Watts acknowledged that the B.C. Liberal government had already stopped taking revenue from ICBC, but de Jong pointed out that the province takes $2.2 billion a year from B.C. Lottery Corp. and the Liquor Distribution Branch. The NDP would deal harshly with a leader who makes “a $2.2 billion mistake” in a platform, he said.

Wilkinson asked Watts to describe five steps that need to be taken by a new leader in the first days of a spring session, which begins with an NDP throne speech and budget in February. He then provided the list after Watts replied with generalities.

Wilkinson also attacked Lee, a rookie MLA who has been touted as signing up many new members. Wilkinson asked where Lee was when he and other veterans were fighting the last six election campaigns.

Stone continued to pitch himself as the youngest candidate, member of a new generation of entrepreneurs with a history of involvement with the party that began in his teens.

Sullivan continued his provocative policy suggestions, offering privatization of health care to go with the re-introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax.

Stone challenged Lee, a Vancouver lawyer, to offer policy that helps the B.C. Interior and the north. Lee said he has worked with resource companies, and chided de Jong for not using a smartphone or email.

There were several chippy segments in the final debate before members vote for a new leader Feb. 1-3. Stone and Wilkinson clashed over their experience in the B.C. Interior, where Stone grew up and Wilkinson spent his early years and later worked as a physician.

The candidates were united in condemning the NDP’s preparations for a referendum on proportional representation. Wilkinson proposed that the B.C. Liberals should take their first $1 million in public subsidy under the NDP government’s financing system and dedicate it to defeating the referendum next fall.

Just Posted

United for Saanich among 62 slates running across British Columbia

The only communities outside Greater Victoria and the Lower Mainland featuring slates are Nelson and Sechelt

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

B.C. has only one bricks-and-mortar marijuana store

PHOTOS: Celebration, heartbreak from weekend World Rowing in Sidney

On-water photographers capture the action for coastal rowing’s North American debut

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

North Saanich residents commended for bravery in crash response

Six residents did not hesitate after serious single-vehicle crash

VIDEO: How to roll a joint

The cannabis connoisseur shares his secrets to rolling the perfect joint

Advance voting begins Oct. 10 in Greater Victoria

The polls open at 8 a.m. for the 2018 municipal election with the general election taking place Oct. 20

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

1,000 needles pulled from Cowichan River

Duncan area cleanup project nets three huge truckloads of garbage

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Demand for legalized cannabis in early hours draws lineups, heavy web traffic

Government-run and privately operated sales portals went live at 12:01 a.m. local time across Canada, eliciting a wave of demand.

Killer-rapist Paul Bernardo set to make parole pitch today

Paul Bernardo, whose very name became synonymous with sadistic sexual perversion, is expected to plead for release on Wednesday.

Hero campaign raises $1.1 million for Canada non-profits

Lowe’s Canada Heroes campaign was held throughout September

Scope of Hurricane Michael’s fury becomes clearer in Florida Panhandle

Nearly 137,000 Florida customers remain without power from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia border

Most Read