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

Adopted pet pig gets killed and eaten

Animal was adopted out by SPCA staff in the Cowichan Valley

Gas tax cash helps Victoria reach funding threshold for Crystal Pool

$69-million project won’t go to referendum if cost covered by three levels of government

Charge laid in Central Saanich dog cruelty case

Daniel Howard Ruygrok charged after dog found with compound fracture

VicPD officers assaulted by women in two separate incidents

One officer’s injuries required a hospital visit, following downtown fray

VIDEO: What you need to know today at the B.C. Games

All 19 events are underway across Kamloops, where five to 10 cm of snow is expected to fall

Rookie boxer gains new self-confidence

After ten weeks of training ‘Killer’ Gibson is ‘unstoppable’

Maritimes want their own CFL team

Their biggest hurdle is getting a stadium commitment in place

Former Island hockey player dies suddenly in Costa Rica

Well known and popular former hockey and lacrosse player dies in accident while travelling

Wounded Warrior Run BC makes it to the Comox Valley

Day four of the annual fundraiser saw the team stop in Courtenay and Comox

Sask. school shooter to be sentenced as adult

The man was just shy of his 18th birthday when he killed four people and injured seven others

Internet questions PM’s fashion choices in India

The Trudeaus’ eight-day visit has been dogged by various controversies since it began Feb. 17

Pearkes opens doors to home renovation and decor expo

Plenty of ideas for homeowners at Victoria Early Spring Home Expo running Friday through Sunday

Claremont to stage broadway classic Annie

Claremont is staging one of the most successful Broadway hits in Annie,… Continue reading

Most Read