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

New mural in Abbotsford represents openness and community growth

Piece led by group passionate about youth development and promoting the arts

Builder battling Langley Township looks toward Langley City

Eric Woodward said he has put out some feelers about ““the possibility of looking at some options”

VIDEO: Fire destroys legal grow op in Langley

Blaze also touched off grass fire

Police investigate sexual assault in Abbotsford

Man grabs woman by shoulders and makes sexual comments

Fraser River water levels creeping towards near-record highs

Mission gauge currently reading just under 6 metres but forecasted to rise

VIDEO: Canadian Forces help flood-ravaged Grand Forks residents heal

Sgt. Bradley Lowes says the military is used to dealing with traumatic times

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Changes needed for ‘Alert Ready’ mass emergency system

‘You need to strike this careful balance between alerting people to lots of problems — and doing it too often’

Las Vegas Golden Knights move on to Stanley Cup final

Improbable run continues for NHL’s newest expansion team

Oregon’s flooded recreational pot market a cautionary tale to Canada

‘In a broader sense, we are adding legal production to an already robust illegal production’

Chilliwack Chiefs make history with first RBC Cup win

In front of a huge and noisy crowd, the Chiefs claimed their first-ever national junior A title

‘Concussion is at the forefront of our thinking’: Rodeo doctor

As in any other contact sport, concussion prevention and treatment efforts continue to evolve

UPDATED: Majority of flood evacuees in Kootenay-Boundary allowed to return home

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

B.C. Lions bring back 6-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye

He was acquired by the Montreal Alouettes last year.

Most Read