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

Pacific Insight to close in April

The remaining employees at the Nelson automotive manufacturing facility to be laid off

Free naloxone kits, training offered in Nelson

The sessions run Jan. 17 and 24, 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army

Nominations open for Nelson’s Citizen of the Year

Recent winners include Kim Charlesworth and Helen Jameson

Nelson Hydro to increase urban rates 1.5 per cent, rural 2.94 per cent

Much of the increase will go to vegetation management

Leafs add 2 players at KIJHL trade deadline

Nelson also traded defenceman Tyson Soobotin to Castlegar

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Study finds more than half of food produced in Canada wasted

The study released Thursday is the world’s first to measure food waste using data from industry and other sources instead of estimates

Snowed-in Austrian nuns insist they’re staying put

Authorities have deployed heavy equipment to clear snow and fallen trees blocking the road to the monastery

Chiasson nets shootout winner as Oilers edge Canucks 3-2

Edmonton moves one point ahead of Vancouver

B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

Hereditary chief: no elected band council or Crown authority has jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en land

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

UPDATE: B.C. boy, aunt missing for three days

The pair are missing from Kamloops

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Most Read