Todd Stone joins B.C. Liberal leadership race, which now has eight candidates

MLA Todd Stone, fourth left, reacts after seeing the crowd waiting for him as he walks with his wife Chantelle, second left, and his daughters Caitlin, 8, from left to right, Sydney, 11, and Hannah, 13, to announce he will seek the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VICTORIA - The latest hopeful to launch a campaign for the leadership of British Columbia's Liberals spoke candidly Tuesday about the elephant in the room that contributed to the party's downfall after 16 years in power, despite the province's resounding economic success.

Todd Stone is the fourth member of former premier Christy Clark's cabinet to enter the leadership race, which brings the field to eighth candidates. The Liberals will elect their new leader in February.

The former transportation minister said the Liberals ran a tight ship economically but didn't listen when it came to the needs of many communities, especially in Metro Vancouver where the Liberals were punished in last spring's election.

"There is no downplaying this, we have learned some tough lessons as a party," said Stone, who announced his leadership bid just outside Vancouver in suburban Surrey, where the Liberals lost seats to the New Democrats. "I have learned some tough lessons as well."

The Liberals took the wrong path on transportation issues in the populous Metro Vancouver area, alienating local politicians and residents on an issue that impacts the daily lives of people.

"There was too much tension. Too much political calculation," Stone said. "We need to stop telling local communities and regions what is best for them. We need to start engaging with them to improve places where we live, work and play."

Stone, 45, who has three young daughters, said he wants to open the Liberal party to more women, youth and ideas, with a focus on the technology industry.

Mike de Jong, the former finance minister who was largely the architect of five straight balanced budgets, said he expects to debate his rivals for the leadership about the province's economic direction under the last Liberal government and in the future.

De Jong, who is taking his second run at the leadership, said if he is criticized for holding the purse strings too tightly, he welcomes it.

"If the criticism is Mike de Jong believes we should respect taxpayers by not spending more of their money than we receive, I'll take that criticism," he said. "If the criticism is Mike de Jong believes we should try to reduce the tax burden people are facing, I'll take that criticism."

Half of the field were members of Clark's cabinet before May's election and defended many of the polices that voters turned away from. Her cabinet also included leadership candidates Andrew Wilkinson and Mike Bernier.

Running for the leadership as well are former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, Terrace businesswoman Lucy Sager and legislature members Michael Lee and Sam Sullivan, who Clark appointed to cabinet after the election shortly before her government was defeated in a confidence vote.

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