British Columbia

Dianne Watts enters BC Liberal leadership race, will resign as Tory MP

Watts is the second high-profile person to announce her plans to run, following former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan.

Watts is the second high-profile candidate to enter the race after MLA and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan

Dianne Watts officially announced she would seek the leadership of the BC Liberal Party at an event in Surrey on Sunday, September 24, 2017. (CBC)

It's official: former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts has announced her candidacy for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party, and will be giving up her seat as Conservative MP.

CBC reported that Watts would be running last week. She made the official announcement at a rally in Surrey on Sunday afternoon.

"After much consideration I have decided to seek the leadership of the BC Liberal Party. I have served in public office as a city councillor, mayor and Member of Parliament, and I believe that I can bring a much-needed new vision and common sense approach to the BC Liberal party," she said in a release.

Watts says she will resign her seat as an MP soon.

'100 per cent committed'

"I'm committed 100 per cent and my focus needs to be here and I don't think that it's fair that I have one foot in Ottawa and one foot here," she told reporters after the announcement.

Watts said voters in the last provincial election recognized a disconnect between the Liberals' approach to balanced budgets and job creation and social spending.

"Those dollars affect their life in a different way," she said.

"And so for me when I heard that, you look after the seniors and our kids and those that are less fortunate and  you build a plan around that."

Watts said that she supports reforms to campaign financing, but questions the approach the provincial NDP government took with legislation it introduced last week banning union and corporate political donations.

Under that bill, taxpayers will pay millions to the province's three parties over the next four years for a transitional annual allowance.

"Because there's people who don't want to contribute to certain parties and they shouldn't have to," she said. "So I think the bill is wrong-headed. I think it needs to be rewritten."

Will seek majority

She was also critical of the agreement reached between the NDP and Green Party to work together on key issues, describing the province as having two premiers.

"I think that's wrong, it's unstable," she said.

Last Thursday B.C. MLA and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan became the first high-profle person to announce their plans to run.

Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson is expected to enter the race Monday.

Meanwhile, former education minister Mike Bernier has said he will make a decision about whether he will run in the next week.

The party has announced a leadership debate Oct. 15, and an official leadership candidate event in Vancouver on Sept. 29.