BC Liberal leadership candidates square off in their final debate, Jan. 23, 2018. (Facebook)

B.C. Liberal leadership candidates get one last prime-time pitch

Leadership campaign to be decided in Feb. 3 vote

The six candidates vying for the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party made their final public push for party member support Tuesday evening in a prime-time TV debate.

Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong, Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan, former Surrey mayor and MP Dianne Watts and Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson are vying for the support of 60,000 party members. Half of those members have been signed up since former premier Christy Clark resigned in the wake of the B.C. Liberal government’s defeat last summer.

RELATED: B.C. Liberal hopefuls lay out their platforms

As in previous leadership debates, Watts was under fire from the start. De Jong zeroed in on her campaign platform, which pledged that the province would stop taking revenue from Crown corporations.

Watts acknowledged that the B.C. Liberal government had already stopped taking revenue from ICBC, but de Jong pointed out that the province takes $2.2 billion a year from B.C. Lottery Corp. and the Liquor Distribution Branch. The NDP would deal harshly with a leader who makes “a $2.2 billion mistake” in a platform, he said.

Wilkinson asked Watts to describe five steps that need to be taken by a new leader in the first days of a spring session, which begins with an NDP throne speech and budget in February. He then provided the list after Watts replied with generalities.

Wilkinson also attacked Lee, a rookie MLA who has been touted as signing up many new members. Wilkinson asked where Lee was when he and other veterans were fighting the last six election campaigns.

Stone continued to pitch himself as the youngest candidate, member of a new generation of entrepreneurs with a history of involvement with the party that began in his teens.

Sullivan continued his provocative policy suggestions, offering privatization of health care to go with the re-introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax.

Stone challenged Lee, a Vancouver lawyer, to offer policy that helps the B.C. Interior and the north. Lee said he has worked with resource companies, and chided de Jong for not using a smartphone or email.

There were several chippy segments in the final debate before members vote for a new leader Feb. 1-3. Stone and Wilkinson clashed over their experience in the B.C. Interior, where Stone grew up and Wilkinson spent his early years and later worked as a physician.

The candidates were united in condemning the NDP’s preparations for a referendum on proportional representation. Wilkinson proposed that the B.C. Liberals should take their first $1 million in public subsidy under the NDP government’s financing system and dedicate it to defeating the referendum next fall.

Just Posted

New bus route to ‘replace’ Greyhound along Trans-Canada Highway

Rider Express Transportation says they will soon begin a bus service from Winnipeg to Vancouver

Where to find Langley election results

Times reports as ballots are tallied Saturday

VIDEO: North Langley Kodiaks shut out North Surrey Bears

Defensive battle Saturday ends in Langley’s favour

A campaign to give municipalities more say over marijuana advertising

Langley Township wants to avoid a Washington-State-style flood of advertising

Spartans have a rough weekend

Women’s hockey team takes on top-ranked TNT

Legal pot price must be ‘competitive’ with black market: Blair

Bill Blair shared final words on journey to legalization ahead of official day Wednesday

Boeser tallies in OT as Canucks beat Penguins 3-2

Vancouver wins without star rookie Pettersson

U.S. pot firm urges Trump to deny Canadian producers ‘competitive advantage’

The challenge for U.S. firms lies in the fact that while recreational cannabis is legal in nine states and medicinal pot in 22 others, it remains illegal under federal law

Mayor of Kamloops says ‘history has been made’ with vote on B.C.’s lone pot shop

The store to be run by the province in B.C.’s Interior is opening Wednesday as pot sales become legal across Canada

Government says imprisoned Canadian terror suspects must face consequences

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale showed little sympathy Tuesday for such individuals who now want to return to Canada

How rules for inmate segregation in Canada will change under Bill C-83

Federal government proposing changes to rules around inmates in federal correctional institutions

Canada Post union issues strike notice; rotating strikes could begin Monday

Union says rotating strikes will begin if agreements aren’t reached with bargaining units

Carole James avoids questions on B.C.’s payroll tax (with video)

Green MLA Adam Olsen cites huge tax increase for local business

Most Read