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HomeNewsSeven stars aligning for BC Liberal leadership race

Seven stars aligning for BC Liberal leadership race


Bob Mackin

As many as seven politicians are seriously pondering a run to become tomorrow’s leader of Today’s BC Liberals. 

Christy Clark’s July 28-announced resignation from politics ignited (and, in a few cases, reignited) a flurry of exploring, organizing and fundraising. Some of it had been happening under-the-radar since late last year, all of it can benefit from the NDP’s delay in reforming campaign finance laws. 

Liberal sources tell theBreaker to watch out for announcements soon from the following. 

Andrew Wilkinson 

Wilkinson has been signing up members for months. That November transit shelter ad campaign in his Quilchena riding may have been about more than just the May 9 election in the safest BC Liberal seat in the province. The doctor and lawyer has been acting as a leader since before the election, subbing for cabinet colleagues at photo ops and media interviews. His recent crashing of a news conference by his Attorney General successor, David Eby, was another experiment in heightening his profile. 

Jas Johal 

Clockwise from top: Sullivan, Johal, Falcon, Stone, Moore, Wilkinson and Watts (centre).

The Tsawwassen-based reporter-cum-LNG lobbyist narrowly won the Richmond-Queensborough seat on May 9 and was briefly in cabinet as citizens’ services minister. He knows it is too soon for him to be a party leader, but would be making the bid for the sake of raising profile. His other purpose? To support Wilkinson, and help put him over the top on the final ballot. 

Kevin Falcon

The former Gordon Campbell loyalist is on the fence, which is frustrating party insiders who believe the 2011 runner-up can win this time. Falcon faces a dilemma. Does he want to leave his comfortable position with developer Anthem Properties to return to B.C.’s political wars? He may be chomping at the bit, after watching the party languish under Clark. 

James Moore

In Stephen Harper’s Conservative goverment, Moore was once the senior minister for B.C. He has a background in talk radio and is an effective communicator and debater. Moore now enjoys a lucrative job with the Dentons law firm, as a senior business advisor, but he has formed a three-person exploratory committee to ponder a run for the leadership. 

Todd Stone

Unlike Moore, ex-Transportation Minister Stone is a shaky communicator. He also has the baggage of the Triple Delete scandal that emanated from his ministerial office. What sets him apart from the other six is geography. That is the main reason why Interior Liberals are pressuring Stone, to throw his hat in the ring and be the voice for the rest of the province. 

Sam Sullivan 

The one-term Vancouver mayor and two-term MLA is forming a team. He knows he is not a frontrunner, but thinks he has a chance if the heavyweights split votes. 

Dianne Watts

The former, three-term Surrey mayor became one of only two federal Tories elected in a riding touching the Pacific Ocean in 2015 (Richmond incumbent Alice Wong was the other). Despite her recruitment by Harper, she can also appeal to social liberals. She faces a rough ride, because heavyweights in the party are already forming an “Anyone But Dianne” plan. Rich Coleman and Mary Polak, especially, blanch at the thought of Watts winning. They fear she would run a top-to-bottom reform of the party.

Watts and new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer were featured attractions at a $100-per-person fundraiser at former Ritchie Brothers industrial auctioneer Russell Cmolik’s South Surrey mansion on July 30. Her successor at city hall, Linda Hepner, showed up to the garden party with Liberal powerbroker Patrick Kinsella, who was in and out within 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, more questions than answers after Clark’s swansong news conference on July 31. 

She tried to portray herself as choosing her destiny. Pierre Trudeau had a walk in the snow. Gordon Campbell had a walk on a beach, in California. Clark had a walk on a beach in Penticton. But her political fate was already out of her control. 

Party backers had been paying for polling for months and the results were not good. Clark was especially weak among young adults, women, and college-educated males. 

Many of those backers sighed in relief when she failed to convince Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon to call an election on June 29. Their polling pointed to an easy and massive Horgan NDP majority in the low 60s, had there been a second 2017 election this summer. 

Based on their projections, the Liberals would have fallen from 43 to approximately 24 seats and the Greens cut to two, from three.