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.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Riverdale fans line up outside Langley nightclub hoping to meet show’s stars

Filming continues at Gabby’s Country Cabaret for the popular teen television series.

Olympics spark rekindles Langley’s interest in curling

A series of open houses at the curling centre this week help introduce people to the sport.

Well-known former B.C. radio personality and politician Barrie Clark dies

Clark remembered as a fair-minded ‘statesman,’ who always saw the big picture

Aldergrove Blazers win in Aldergrove Arena’s final game

Aldergrove Bantam C2 Blazers won in the last ever ice hockey game in the old Aldergrove arena

LANGLEY’S GREEN THUMB: Is it really a weed, or a plant?

Advance columnist Pam Erikson talks about weeds versus plants, and offers some plant sale dates.

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Celebrate Easter with Aldergrove zoo critters

Greater Vancouver Zoo offers family fun this Easter weekend

Police officers injured in Trans Mountain pipeline arrests: RCMP

One suffered a head injury after being kicked, another hurt a knee, and a third hurt a hand

Horgan promises new school funding formula in B.C.

Premier addresses B.C. Teachers Federation AGM ahead of contract negotiations starting next year

Reader Photos: First day of spring around British Columbia

Our loyal viewers sent us some of their favourite Spring photos from all corners of the province

Five Canadian kids charged with making school threats

Police say online threats are on the rise

Not even Ellen DeGeneres can get Virtue, Moir to say they’re more than friends

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Tuesday

RCMP warn public to stop pouring gas on fires after three incidents

Police responded to three recent incidents that sent seven people to hospital

BCHL Today: Surrey Eagles in the driver’s seat and Ethan Martini takes a seat

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Most Read