Editorial: On your mark, get set, go — Liberal Party leadership race is on

The first debate for the candidates to replace Christy Clark as the leader of the B.C. Liberal party will be held on Oct. 15. With eight declared candidates so far it promises to be an interesting race.


At last count, there were eight contenders in the race for the Liberal Party leadership. Many are familiar names: former Cabinet ministers Andrew Wilkinson, Mike Bernier, Todd Stone and Mike de Jong; MLA and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan and MP and former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts. First time MLA Michael Lee and Terrace business owner Lucy Sager have also thrown their hats into the ring.

The first leadership debate is scheduled for Oct. 15, giving us our first opportunity to compare the candidates side by side. Certainly, there is a wealth of political experience in the roster but that might not turn out to be an advantage. A party looking for renewal could shun the old guard.

The new leader will be faced with the challenge of staking out a vision for the party. After the Liberal’s last bizarre Throne speech, voters may well have been confused about what the Liberals stand for. Recall that the speech borrowed heavily from the New Democrat platform, recognizing perhaps that the image of the Liberal party was far from caring and compassionate. There’s nothing wrong with incorporating good ideas from a rival’s playbook but it wasn’t what the Liberals campaigned on.

So job No. 1 will be to determine what the Liberal Party is all about. It could return to its Lockean liberal roots, championing free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, civil rights, gender equality and free markets. Or, it could take a more interventionist stance, moving to the left of the political spectrum as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals successfully did in the last federal election. The new leader will have to strike a balance between social policy and economic prudence.

He or she will also have to shore up support in the Lower Mainland, where it lost votes and seats, without sacrificing the rural ridings where the Liberals did well. The leader will have to be ready to respond to a minefield of issues — poverty, the opioid crisis, housing affordability, access to health care, transit and road infrastructure, to name a few.

 The party will elect a new leader in February. With no clear front-runner, it promises to be an interesting race.