By Alistair Waters – Kelowna Capital News
B.C. Liberal Party leadership candidate Todd Stone has released his full platform as he competes with five others to succeed Christy Clark and lead the party into the next election.
Stone, a second-term MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson and former transportation minister, was in Kelowna on the weekend for the fourth Liberal leadership debate and spoke about his platform.
At 45, Stone is the youngest candidate running for the party leadership and the only one from outside the Lower Mainland. Also running are MLAs Michael de Jong, Michael Lee, Andrew Wilkinson and Sam Sullivan and former Surrey Mayor and Conservative MP Dianne Watts.
He said his plan outlines his ideas and priorities as leader —from embracing and growing the B.C. tech sector and improving childcare, to improvements to transportation, protecting the environment and tackling the growing issue of housing affordability.
And he said one of the first tasks for whoever becomes the new Liberal leader will be trying to defeat the NDP government’s planned referendum on proportional representation, a move he contends will remove the voice of rural B.C. when it comes to electing future provincial governments.
In what sounded more like an provincial election announcement than a party leadership bid, Stone said if he were premier, he would reduce the provincial sales tax by one per cent, roll back all NDP tax hikes and freeze provincial income tax rates.
“For me, keeping tax rates low, balancing budgets, growing jobs and keeping our economy strong are core values at the centre of all I would do as leader,” he said.
“At the same time, we must ensure we are using our strong economy to invest in priorities that will make life better for families and communities.”
He added that he wants to see “politics taken out of byelections,” by mandating byelections be called within 45 days of seats being vacated.
Currently, B.C.’s premier has six months to call a byelection, something Premier John Horgan appears to be taking advantage of in Kelowna West. That riding was represented by former Liberal premier Clark before she quit politics on Aug. 5. Despite saying he would move quickly to call a byelection, Horgan has yet to announce a date. He has until February to set the date.
In May the Liberals won the election but fell one seat short of a majority. As a result, the NDP, with the assistance of the B.C. Green Party, joined forces in the legislature to oust Clark’s government and take power.
Stone said his party has to win back the support of British Columbians and one way to do so is to get out a hear what the public has say. He is proposing regular town hall meetings that he would attend as leader across the province, to talk to British Columbians about their concerns.
Stone’s appearance in Kelowna included a protester, who crashed his announcement, upset about the transportation ministry taking land he and his wife own on Highway 33 seven years ago when it widened the road.
Eduard and Dayleen Van Ryswyk have accused the province of taking a strip of land that impacted access to their property and their business and Stone did not help them. The couple claims the land was not properly expropriated and they did not receive any compensation. The province simply took it.
Stone said he was aware of the case, but as minister was not directly involved. The case is currently before the courts.
Deadline for new party members to join and vote in the leadership race is Dec. 29. The party had about 35,000 members before Christy Clark resigned this past summer. In the 2011 leadership race, the party membership grew to 100,000. Dec. 29 is also the deadline for leadership candidates to file nomination papers.
Candidates seeking the leadership must pay a $25,000 candidacy fee and a refundable $10,000 compliance deposit by Dec. 29. Candidates can spend up to $600,000 on their campaigns.
Party members will choose a new leader place between Feb. 1 and Feb. 3 via online and telephone voting.