Todd Stone: Liberal leadership candidate hopes his past doesn't spoil his future
He's considered one of the favourites in the race, but questions over his time in government persist
Gordon Campbell's executive assistant in the 1990s. Former ICBC board member. Minister of transportation under Christy Clark.
And, Todd Stone says, the fresh perspective the B.C. Liberal Party needs.
"I am the face of renewal. I'm the youngest candidate in the race. What we need in this party is rejuvenation. We need to embrace the change that's taking place all around us."
Embracing the mantle of renewal after years as a key government player seems like an awkward tightrope to walk.
But Stone, a tech CEO before he made the full-time leap to politics in 2013 as a Kamloops MLA, has spent the entire race trying to be a compromise candidate, positioning himself between the experience-based pitches of Mike de Jong and Andrew Wilkinson and the fresh perspectives promised by Michael Lee and Dianne Watts.
To do so, he's spent some time criticizing his party's past.
"It's not good enough in the South Asian community to just go and show up once or twice a year at a festival or special event. This is a vibrant, dynamic community that needs to be brought into our party," he said.
"We don't have enough youth in our party, we don't have enough women in our party, and we're not well represented at the moment within these diverse communities. A leader has to set the tone."
Another way Stone has tried to reach out is through the policies he promises to pursue if he becomes leader and the B.C. Liberals win the next election.
There's standard Liberal orthodoxy around reversing NDP tax increases, balancing the budget, embracing the tech economy and increasing the supply of housing in Metro Vancouver.
But there's also $1.2 billion over four years for childcare expansion. $2 billion over three years in capital spending in schools. And he's gone further than any other candidate in talking about demand-side housing measures, including a vacant-homes tax for all of British Columbia.
"Our plan is fully costed and can be delivered within the context of continued balanced budgets," he says.
"We have to be thinking about the future. We have to invest in the services people need. That's why we've put a bold plan for early childhood development ... let's get going on mental health now, let's make sure we're investing the classroom now. These that British Columbians expect their government to make."
ICBC and triple delete
In a preferential voting system, with every riding in the province counting equally, Stone hopes his policies, endorsements and position as the only candidate from outside the Lower Mainland will give him the coalition needed to emerge victorious.
But if he loses, it will be blamed on the controversies he chalked up while he served as transportation minister, which have been brought up — both directly and obliquely — by some of his rivals in the last weeks of the race.
The unsuccessful transit referendum happened during his watch, and he was minister responsible for ICBC in the years preceding the projected $1.3-billion deficit the crown corporation now faces..
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Also, his ministerial assistant pled guilty for wilfully making false statements during in the "triple delete" scandal, a situation which Stone continues to say he has no regrets over.
"Things evolve. I'm a tech CEO, and in my business, we encouraged our employees … in terms of minimizing the amount of storage space that was used on our machine. We were a small business, and this was a practice that was very common in the tech sector. There was no rules broken, nothing that was deleted that represented an original document, so this is old news," he said.
"We're going to continue to follow the rules 110 per cent like we always have."
Whether the 60,000 or so Liberal members agree or not will go a long way in determining whether Stone stands victorious on Saturday.
Justin McElroy is profiling all six B.C. Liberal leadership candidates as the party prepares to vote for a new leader Feb. 3.