BC Liberal leadership hopefuls on the defence debating plans for party's future

KELOWNA, B.C. - Several of the BC Liberals leadership hopefuls were on the defence as their fellow candidates picked apart their platforms during a heated debate in Kelowna, B.C., on Saturday.

Todd Stone and Andrew Wilkinson called out former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts for not having released a platform in the campaign that is set to wrap up in two months.

"We are over half way through this campaign. We have yet to hear a single plan on a single topic including what your vision is," Stone said to Watts.

Watts said she's spent the last two months travelling around the province listening to voters — a move she adds the party failed to do ahead of the spring election.

"We lost the election because you guys stopped listening," she said. "If we've ever got a hope to get back into government, we need to make sure we are re-enaging and rebuilding the trust that was lost."

But Wilkinson said the party's elected members are already reaching out to constituents and what is needed is a leader offers action.

"We're all fully capable of listening but thinking about things, planning the future, being exciting is what this race is going to have to be about," he said.

Watts wasn't the only one of the six candidates that came under fire during the debate.

She questioned Stone's record as the province's former transportation minister, arguing the party lost seats in Lower Mainland in last spring's election over a lack of transit improvements.

Stone said the Liberals invested billions in transit and the party's proposed infrastructure projects, namely replacing the bottlenecked George Massey Tunnel with a bridge, are being quashed by the current NDP government.

He also defended his plans to cut taxes and increase childcare spaces in the province, while calling Wilkinson's proposals "timid and tired."

Former finance minister Mike de Jong, who introduced a tax on foreign homebuyers last year, was quizzed on his plans to address housing affordability in the province — a key issue in the last election that has resurfaced in the leadership debate.

De Jong said a solution to housing affordability in the province would be to increase the supply by legislating that municipalities speed up approvals on new developments.

There will be two more events where the six candidates will go head-to-head before party members selects a new leader in February.

—Follow @Givetash on Twitter.


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