The BC Liberals leadership debate in Nanaimo is underway. (Greg Sakaki/Nanaimo News Bulletin)

B.C. Liberals elect new leader today as party rebuilds after 16 years in power

Estimated 60,000 party members were eligible to vote online and by phone to replace Christy Clark

A sometimes bruising leadership campaign ends today in Vancouver for British Columbia’s Liberals as they elect a new leader who will be tasked with returning the party to power after a 16 year term in office that ended last summer.

An estimated 60,000 party members were eligible to vote online and by phone to replace Christy Clark, who resigned after the New Democrats formed a minority government with the support of the Green party following a non-confidence vote that brought down the Liberals.

The field of six candidates includes three veterans with deep cabinet experience, two former big city mayors and a first-time member of the legislature from Metro Vancouver.

Mike de Jong, Andrew Wilkinson and Todd Stone were longtime members of Clark’s cabinet.

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

READ MORE: Todd Stone campaign forfeits 1,349 B.C. Liberal memberships

READ MORE: Pro-life group releases rank list of BC Liberal leadership candidates

Sam Sullivan, a former Vancouver mayor, was appointed to cabinet in the dying days of Clark’s government last summer.

The field also includes Michael Lee, a Vancouver lawyer who was elected to the legislature last spring, and Dianne Watts, a former Conservative MP and one-time mayor of Surrey.

The B.C. Liberal Party is not affiliated with the federal Liberals. It describes itself as “a made-in-B.C. free enterprise coalition” that includes members of the federal Conservative and Liberal parties.

READ MORE: Dianne Watts, most B.C. Liberals would keep taxpayers’ money

B.C. VIEWS: B.C. Liberal battle getting bitter

READ MORE: B.C. Liberal leadership candidates debate different paths for party

Getting the party back to power after a lacklustre election campaign last May has been a focus of the leadership campaign.

There has been finger-pointing in debates over who was to blame for the Liberal downfall, despite B.C. boasting the strongest economy in Canada.

Some candidates criticized the party’s old guard for failing to address transportation, housing and social policy issues that led to losses in seat-rich Metro Vancouver, once a Liberal stronghold.

De Jong, the former finance minister, set himself apart from the field, defending the Liberal record as he took heat for his tight-fisted control of the province’s purse strings that meant programs aimed at easing financial pressures for people never made it off the drawing board.

Stone, his former cabinet colleague, acknowledged the Liberals were strong economic managers as he argued the party could have done a better job of sharing the wealth, including raising welfare rates.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Sailings filling up on Northern Sea Wolf

There is a strong demand for the service

New ownership group presents Mount Timothy Resort plans

‘More activity and more people on the hill means more fun’

Thunderstorms in forecast for much of Cariboo Chilcotin

Special weather statements, concerns of flash flooding, for southern B.C. regions

Two Nuxalk artists awarded YVR Art Foundation scholarships

Several Nuxalk artists have won the award, some more than once

Convicted animal abuser to return to B.C. court May 21

Catherine Jessica Adams is facing a breach of probation charge

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Most Read