BC Liberals leadership race heats up at local bakery

By on November 14, 2017
File photo.

Two BC Liberal leadership candidates have made campaign stops in the country music capital, aiming to sell locals on their plan to boost the economy of rural B.C.

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone and Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson were both at Brambles Bakery recently speaking to supporters.

The pair of MLAs are two of six Liberals vying to succeed former leader Christy Clark and take the party into the next election. Two candidates, MLA Mike Bernier and Terrace businesswoman Lucy Sager, have dropped out, backing Mike de Jong and Dianne Watts, respectively.

Wilkinson made three stops in the Interior back on Oct. 28 in Penticton, Oliver and Merritt where he heard concerns regarding the state of the economy in the Interior.

“We know in Merritt there’s been a setback with the closure of the Tolko mill,” Wilkinson told the Herald, adding that people expressed concern with job security.

Merritt was Stone’s fourth stop of the day back on Nov. 1 where he said he heard “two overriding themes.” One was anger towards the current NDP government’s “job killing decisions,” such as their opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and the other was concern that a successful referendum on proportional representation would take away rural B.C.’s voice in the next election.

Kamloops South-Thompson MLA Todd Stone. (Michael Potestio/Herald)

The lone candidate in the race from outside the Lower Mainland, Stone is touting a six point plan for rural economic development in B.C.

“We’re focusing on supporting our resource and energy sectors, really doubling down with a number of initiatives,” Stone said.

The plan includes improving Internet connection for small communities, reviewing the tax burden on the forestry sector, completing the Site C dam, upgrading side roads and bridges, providing incentives for community redevelopment on former industrial sites and doubling the BC Rural Dividend Fund to $50 million per year.

Wilkinson said in order to help rural towns like Merritt, the province needs to ensure there is a tax policy and incentives that keep resource-based and construction companies thriving in the Interior.

“They’re essential to the functioning of the Interior economy,” said Wilkinson.

He also said there needs to be an updated inventory in the fiber supply for B.C. forestry industry.

“Between fires and pine beetle we don’t have a complete handle on where the future lies for our forest industry,” said Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said he got a “real handle on what the issues are in Merritt, which is important for anybody who wants to be the leader” of the Liberal party.

Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson (Photo contributed)

Both Stone and Wilkinson served as provincial ministers in the previous Liberal government. Stone served as Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure as well as the Minister Responsible for Emergency Management BC. Wilkinson previously served as Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Minister of Advanced Education, and Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services. 

The leadership vote will take place between Feb. 1 and Feb. 3 via online and telephone voting.

 

— with files from Kamloops This Week

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