B.C. Liberal Party leadership candidates Dianne Watts, Mike de Jong, Sam Sullivan, Todd Stone, Michael Lee and Andrew Wilkinson attended a debate Sunday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates debate different paths for party

Third debate held Sunday, Nov. 19 at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre

The B.C. Liberals’ leadership debate Sunday in Nanaimo underlined some of the different ways the party could be headed.

Six candidates – Dianne Watts, Mike de Jong, Sam Sullivan, Todd Stone, Michael Lee and Andrew Wilkinson – attended the forum at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre to talk about transportation, education and other topics.

As the party chooses a new leader, Wilkinson said the Liberals can be proud of their record of economic prosperity and balanced budgets in B.C.

“We’re going to see the NDP on a spending marathon in the years to come and we have to be a party to stand up for balanced budgets, stand up for fiscal responsibility and make sure we don’t spend money we don’t have,” he said.

Lee noted that the Liberals won only one seat on Vancouver Island and suggested the party underperformed in urban ridings, as well.

“It’s not because we don’t care. We just didn’t demonstrate it,” he said. “So issues around affordability, issues around transportation, we need to plan better and we need to articulate that better. That’s the reason we need a different approach. We’re not going to regain seats on this Island or in urban ridings just by talking about balanced budgets and a triple-A credit rating.”

Sullivan talked about privatization of liquor sales, some privatization of health care and even of education with talk of charter schools.

De Jong expanded on previously pitched notions of government decentralization.

“Where is it written in this age of technology that government must all be located in Victoria?” he asked. “Is it revolutionary to at least consider the possibility that the B.C. Ferries corporation could be headquartered in Nanaimo? We can do it with various departments of government.”

Ferries were an area of focus at Sunday’s debate and Watts said the fares are making the crossings unaffordable.

“When you look at the system and you look at how it functions and how it moves, we need to be making sure that we have affordability built into that entire system,” she said.

Stone, former transportation minister, said the ferry system wasn’t sustainable four and a half years ago.

“Because of tough decisions, because of sacrifices in coastal British Columbia, it is sustainable and fares can now start to come down,” he said.

Stone said he wishes to continue to reduce fares and said sports teams and school groups should get free ferry service, a concept Wilkinson questioned.

“My core principle as a B.C. Liberal is you don’t spend your kids’ money on operating costs today. You pay your own way,” he said.

Sullivan suggested B.C. could take the example of the Washington state ferries and look to reduce staffing on vessels to provide more service in other ways.

“I believe that a lot of the regulations are too tough…” he said. “I’d like to be able to challenge the federal regulators and see if we could get a much more effective, cost-efficient ferry service.”

Candidates were allowed two opportunities to directly question one another and Stone directed both his queries at Watts. First he said, “You talk about a new vision for British Columbia … but the details of that vision have been pretty limited,” and then suggested that she could have done more, as a Conservative MP, to help the B.C. Liberals in last spring’s election.

“I have to be honest. I didn’t really see that contribution from you and it could have made a difference. We might not be having this discussion today,” Stone said.

Watts replied that she “didn’t realize I carried that much power that if I had done more that we would have won, but thank you for that,” and said she did try to support provincial Liberal candidates in her federal riding.

De Jong left the debate early to fly back to his Abbotsford riding to attend a celebration of life for a police officer killed in the line of duty, Const. John Davidson, but as he left, de Jong said all of the candidates are good people and “it speaks well of who our party is.”

He said the B.C. Liberals’ path back to government will involve visiting every corner of the province and listening to people.

“And generate the ideas from within our communities and within our party and take that vision to British Columbia rooted in the free-enterprise principles that have made this party great and have made British Columbia the envy of Canada,” he said.

The party will choose its next leader the first week of February.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Officer shot, man arrested after standoff near Argenta

The officer suffered non-life threatening injuries

PLACE NAMES: More Nelson neighbourhoods

Parklands among lost Nelson neighbourhood names

Books for Kids campaign aiming for $30,000

The fundraising is for free books and literacy programs for thousands of children

‘If we do nothing, the herd will certainly be extirpated’: Caribou maternity pen proposed in Nakusp

The Arrow Lakes Caribou Society is waiting for a response from the province

‘Unity Sailing’ presses for end to ferry dispute

Over 100 people protested the ongoing labour action

VIDEO: Langley woman’s security camera records its own theft

Langley family discovers early morning grab was recorded

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Man caught throwing away election signs in Fernie, ordered to put them back

Man told RCMP he had ‘no faith in government’

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

B.C.’s largest herds turn the corner from extinction

Pearson nets shootout winner as Canucks clip Flyers 3-2

Vancouver picks up second straight home win

Map on Elections Canada website sends Nanaimo-Ladysmith voters to landfill

Address for polling station correct, but Google Map address differs

BC Children’s Hospital launches 2 new virtual care sites bringing total to 19 across province

Provincial initiative allows pediatric patients to see health specialists through video

Most Read