BC votes for Liberal leader next weekend

Victoria –

A new leader will be chosen by British Columbia’s Liberal Party on Saturday after a months-long campaign typically focused on renewal and a new course for a party that has failed in consecutive elections. after 16 years in power.

The party is looking for its third leader since 2017 and to replace Andrew Wilkinson, who stepped down in 2020 when the NDP was re-elected with a majority government.

The campaign is atypical due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, encompassing online debates and virtual events rather than large rallies and gatherings, but it has always focused on finding soul and focus on the party’s identity by those who are running to become its new leader.

Seven candidates, including three members of the Liberal caucus, three relative newcomers and a former cabinet minister who fired a second time at the helm, are vying to replace Wilkinson. The candidates are legislative members Michael Lee, Ellis Ross and Renee Merrifield; business leaders Gavin Dew, Val Litwin and Stan Sipos; and Kevin Falcon, a former Liberal Cabinet Secretary and leadership candidate in 2011.

A post-election post-election report released by the party last June said the Liberal Party was widely seen as lacking diversity and had to embark on a rebranding to support its values ​​and policies. voters’ wishes. It says the province has changed and so has the BC Liberal.

Stephen Smart, press secretary to former prime minister Christy Clark and a public relations strategist based in Vancouver, said the party had fallen behind and the leadership contest was crucial for the party. Liberals who have been weakened after the 2020 election and have not yet recovered.

“The party continues to lose support and perhaps, more alarmingly, it continues to lose relevance for many voters, especially urban voters,” he said.

The Liberals have been reduced to 28 seats in BC’s 87-seat legislature, losing 13 seats in the 2020 vote, including several seats on Metro Vancouver’s key rides, and suffering defeats in the courts. old party stronghold in the Fraser Valley.

Smart said cracks continue to form in the party platform, which despite the Liberal name, includes a long-standing coalition of federal Liberal and Conservative supporters. The party is not affiliated with the federal Liberal Party.

“For a long time, there was a lack of recognition that voters had changed, and the party stopped growing with voters,” said Smart, a member of the party but not involved in any of the leadership campaigns. .

“The new leader will need to read the room and figure out what voters are looking for today and how they can fit the party into that and 2024 and beyond.”

Each of the seven candidates has made reconnecting the BC Liberals with voters a central topic in their leadership bids.

Falcon said at the first leadership debate last fall: “This party demands, despite its great history, it demands a reboot and rebuild as well as a potential rebranding.

Mary Polak, a former Liberal Cabinet minister defeated in 2020, said the decline in support from urban voters was worrisome, but the party’s success historically has always been the possibility of politicians. Its leadership brings together people from different regions and cultures.

Those leaders know what issues to put aside and focus instead on core Liberal values, she said.

“It’s good to have caucuses with very different views of the province, maybe,” said Polak, who now volunteers as Liberal chairwoman for the Langley constituency she died in 2020. is from a rural or urban point of view.

“It’s good to have that tension in the room because it exists in the province,” she said. “You always have to balance those interests if you want a successful government.”

Colin Hansen, co-chair of the leadership election committee, said the party had added 20,000 new members to the campaign and he believed they would help lead a Liberal rejuvenation. The Liberal party’s membership now stands at about 43,000, he said.

Voting online or by phone will take place Thursday through Saturday. Winners are expected to be announced on Saturday night.

The leader will be elected by a ranked voting process in which registered voters select their candidates in order of preference, ranking them first through seventh.

During the voting process, each of BC’s 87 rides was worth 100 points for a total of 8,750 points, Hansen said. The first candidate to receive 4,350 points, plus one point will be declared the winner.

The Liberals used a similar ranked voting process in the 2018 leadership race that elected Wilkinson on the fifth ballot.

This Canadian Press report was first published on January 30, 2022.

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