British Columbia

Kelowna MLA joins B.C. Liberal leadership race

Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield was elected to the provincial legislature for the first time in October.

Provincial health critic Renee Merrifield is the latest candidate to compete for the top Opposition job

Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield announced her candidacy for the B.C. Liberal leadership on Monday. (B.C. Liberals)

The latest candidate for B.C. Liberal Party's leadership is promising to bring fresh views to provincial politics, as she enters a six-month race against heavyweights with much more political experience.

Renee Merrifield, elected Kelowna-Mission MLA for the first time in October, officially announced her candidacy on Monday. 

Currently the Opposition's health critic, Merrifield goes head to head with Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, Vancouver-Langara MLA and transportation critic Michael Lee and former Liberal cabinet minister Kevin Falcon in the bid for party leader set for Feb. 5.

The candidates also include former B.C. Chamber of Commerce president Val Litwin and longtime B.C. Liberals consultant Gavin Dew. 

In a written statement on Monday, Merrifield says she has more than 20 years of business experience. As a rookie politician, she says qualifications for leadership don't necessarily come from political experience.

"A lot of people are looking for someone with fresh eyes and a fresh approach and someone that doesn't come with that kind of myopic view of politics," Merrifield said Wednesday to Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South

"People are looking for something different. They're looking for authenticity. They're looking for a fresh voice. They're looking for someone who can passionately take our province forward and who can create a vision not just for the B.C. Liberals … but also for our entire province."

She also addressed a campaign promise from Falcon, who has said he wants to see a new name for the Liberals.

Former B.C. Liberal cabinet member Kevin Falcon announced in May he's running for party leader. (Kevin Falcon Campaign)

Merrifield said a cultural change within the party is more important than a name change.

"Just changing a name is like changing colours of lipsticks, which I don't think is necessarily going to change who we are as a party," she said.

"We need to do a really serious look at who we are and change our culture and make it more welcoming, make it more diverse, make it somewhere that people can see themselves."

The B.C. Liberals leadership race results from former leader Andrew Wilkinson's resignation following criticism from within the party, after the Liberals won the lowest seat count since 1991 in the provincial election in October 2020.

The party has said the winner of the leadership race will be announced on Feb. 5 after three days of voting by party members.

Former B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson resigned after his party won the lowest seat count in the legislature since 1991 in the provincial election last October. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The deadline for candidates to declare they are running is Nov. 30.

Party membership is open to B.C. residents aged 14 and up. People can sign up or renew their membership by Dec. 29 in order to vote in the leadership contest.

With files from Daybreak South and Canadian Press