Former B.C. Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong enters leadership race
De Jong finished fourth in the 2011 Liberal leadership race won by Christy Clark
Longtime Liberal MLA Mike de Jong says he is entering the race to lead "his team," the B.C. Liberals.
The former finance minister was in charge of the province's books for five straight balanced budgets but finished a distant fourth in the 2011 leadership race.
"I have served two premiers, two leaders over my time here and now I think I posses the expertise, the experience, the talent and the energy to reinvigorate this team," said de Jong in an interview to announce his intention to join the race.
De Jong joins a quickly growing, crowded field of candidates.
MLAs Sam Sullivan, Mike Bernier and Andrew Wilkinson are already in the race. Recently elected MLA Michael Lee is expected to join his colleagues today. Conservative MP Dianne Watts and Terrace businesswoman Lucy Sager have also entered the leadership contest.
MLAs Theresa Wat, Simon Gibson and John Martin have declared their support for de Jong's leadership campaign.
"Five years as the finance minister, by any measure British Columbia performed very, very well, and the requests actually I have received from members of the party has been overwhelming," said de Jong.
"We need a captain of this team, a leader who can stand up to Mr. Horgan and the NDP."
Carrying Liberal baggage
De Jong has been quick to criticize Watts.
He says his party membership "extends back more than a couple of months" compared to Watts who has just jumped to the party from her job as the Conservative MP for Surrey-White Rock.
De Jong also criticized Watts for not helping the B.C. Liberals during the hard-fought 2017 provincial election, especially in the Surrey swing ridings.
He is expected to face criticism, himself, that he is not the right person to renew the party. First elected in a 1994 byelection, he is the second longest serving MLA, behind Liberal Linda Reid.
De Jong was also resistant to the previous government's foreign buyers tax and was insistent for a long time that the province would only cover one third of the price tag for major transit projects like the Surrey LRT and Broadway subway line.
It's a position the Liberal government would eventually change by pledging 40 per cent for those projects. But, still, de Jong promises his campaign will have commitments around addressing the congestion issue.
"Making mom or dad spend another hour and a half in traffic every day, keeping them away from their kids, is not a recipe for healthy families," said de Jong.