British Columbia

B.C. Liberals to decide on leadership vote

The stage will be set Saturday for the B.C. Liberal Party leadership convention to replace Premier Gordon Campbell.
The B.C. Liberals decide Saturday on the process for voting for a leader to replace Premier Gordon Campbell. ((CBC))
The stage will be set Saturday for the B.C. Liberal Party leadership convention to replace Premier Gordon Campbell.

The executive is meeting at a private location in Metro Vancouver to set the ground rules and pick a date for the vote, said party spokesman Chad Pederson.

"They are going to be discussing the leadership vote, our rescheduled convention and constitutional provisions that they have to cover with respect to the leadership vote itself," Pederson said.

The executive is to release a statement on their decisions late Saturday, he said.

The last time B.C. Liberals elected a leader was 17 years ago, when Campbell defeated former leader Gordon Wilson in a phone-in vote.

Campbell announced this month that he's stepping down, saying public outrage toward him over the harmonized sales tax has overshadowed the real issues facing the province.

Pederson said the 26-member party executive, which includes Social Development Minister Kevin Krueger as the only Liberal caucus representative, will try to address the concerns of some party members that the current one-member, one-vote system favours candidates from heavily populated, urban ridings.

Voting system in question

Pederson said the executive will discuss methods of ensuring the leadership vote is fair for everybody.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett wants a leadership vote system that gives his East Kootenay riding equal clout with those in the Lower Mainland.

"What does that mean for Terrace? What's it mean for Williams Lake? What's it mean for Cranbrook?" Bennett said Friday. "We need to ensure the leader is elected from the whole province."

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has said she will announce her intentions next week.
Dennis Pilon, a professor of political science at the University of Victoria, said the party executive should think beyond the perceived habits of rural and urban voters when considering changing the one-member, one-vote system.

"They have to come up with good reasons for the choices that they make if the changes are going to be accepted as legitimate," he said.

"If people are assuming that the people who are going to vote for the leader on the basis of where people are from, I think they are sadly mistaken."

Pilon said it's possible that a potential candidate such as former cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom — a rural northeast MLA who quit the Liberal caucus over the HST — could gain the support of urban Liberals "if they figure he's the guy who can win."

Pederson said he expects the executive will have the matter resolved Saturday, which many believe will spur prospective candidates to announce their intentions to vie for the leadership.

Announcements next week

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, considered a current favourite even though she has never won a provincial seat, has said she will make an announcement next week on whether or not she will run.

Education Minister George Abbott has dropped the strongest hints so far that he will enter the race.

Solicitor General Rich Coleman and Health Minister Kevin Falcon have both said they have yet to arrive at a decision about seeking the leadership, but both have been making almost daily public announcements.

Former B.C. finance minister Carole Taylor has been mentioned as a dream leadership candidate, but she has frequently said she has no desire to return to provincial politics.

With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies