Christy Clark has vacated her Kelowna West seat and the party leadership, with Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman (top) acting as interim leader and Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong (bottom) considering a run for the leadership. (Black Press files)

B.C. Liberals set leadership vote for Feb. 2-4

Todd Stone, Mike Bernier, Dianne Watts, Andrew Wilkinson considering run to replace Christy Clark

The B.C. Liberal Party is holding a province-wide vote Feb. 2-4 to select a new leader.

The vote retains many of the rules of the 2011 contest that chose former premier Christy Clark, with every member getting a weighted vote that ensures the decision doesn’t favour urban constituencies with more population and members.

Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong announced this week he is considering a second run at the leadership, with the release of a poll finding him likeliest to challenge NDP Premier John Horgan. Another poll gave former Surrey mayor and now South Surrey-White Rock MLA Dianne Watts the edge in public opinion.

Also considering leadership bids are Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone and Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson.

Candidates are required to take part in party-sponsored debates in Surrey, Prince George, Nanaimo, the Thompson-Okanagan region, Vancouver and one event organized by the B.C. Liberal Indigenous Network.

The party is requiring a $50,000 entry fee, which the party executive notes is the same charged by the Ontario Liberal Party in its last leadership event.

A spending cap of $600,000 will be applied to each candidate, not counting entry fees.

Results will be announced at a convention-style event on Feb. 4, just before MLAs convene in Victoria for a new session of the B.C. legislature. With each constituency membership allotted 100 points, members will vote by ranking candidates in order of preference, with the bottom candidate dropped as second and third choices are considered.

The party executive announced Tuesday that former attorney general Geoff Plant will oversee the leadership, and a secure voting service and auditor are being selected. The 2011 contest featured controversies about personal identity numbers sent out by postal mail, and allegations of numbers being misused in the online vote.

“The leadership 2018 rules are rooted in best practices from our previous leadership race and other contests across Canada, and informed by feedback from our grassroots members across the province,” said party president Sharon White.

Clark won the leadership in 2011 over former transportation and finance minister Kevin Falcon and former aboriginal relations and education minister George Abbott, who declined to run in the 2013 election.

Falcon has ruled out a comeback, and rookie Richmond-Queensboro MLA Jas Johal has also said he will not run. By taking over as interim leader since Clark resigned her seat in the wake of the defeat of the B.C. Liberal government, veteran Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman has taken himself out of contention.

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