Heated exchanges highlight fourth B.C. Liberal leadership debate

Feisty moments as the six candidates square off in Kelowna Saturday

With only two more debates left and just two months to go before the BC Liberal Party elects a new leader, the race to succeed Christy Clark is heating up among the candidates.

In what was the most feisty debate so far, the six candidates—Andrew Wilkinson, Dianne Watts, Todd Stone, Mike de Jong, Michael Lee and Sam Sullivan—squared-off for a fourth time Saturday in Kelowna.

And when the candidates had the opportunity to ask each other questions in front of a standing room only crowd in the ballroom of the Coast Capri Hotel, the sparks flew—especially between Stone and Watts.

Stone, the transportation minister in the last Liberal government, and the co-chairman of the Liberals election campaign in May, lit the fire when he accused Watts of “failing to deliver a plan on a single topic” after he asked her what she would do to help deal with the local issue of water governance in the City of Kelowna and she didn’t address the issue in her answer.

Stone released what he touted as his “bold vision for British Columbia” on Friday in Kelowna, a wide-ranging outline of what he would do on a number of topics if he were to win the Liberal leadership and the party forms the B.C. government.

During the debate he held up his plan and taunted her saying: “Here’s my plan—where’s yours Dianne? Show us the plan.”

Given her opportunity to ask Stone a question, Watts, zeroed in on why, as a minister, he supported building a second hospital in Surrey but as co-chairman of the Liberal’s election campaign in May, the project was not important enough to be included in the party’s platform. She also criticized him for not doing enough for transportation south of the Fraser River in the Lower Mainland when he was the minister. Watts feels transportation issues were key in the party losing many of the 11 seats it lost in the election.

Those losses allowed the NDP and BC Green Party to defeat the Liberals in a confidence vote in the legislature following the election and that ended 16 years of Liberal rule in B.C.

Later, in another exchange, when Stone accused Watts of opposing the former Liberal government’s plan to replace the George Massey Tunnel in the Lower Mainland with a bridge over the Fraser River—a proposal killed by the new NDP government—Watts responded telling Stone “that’s an absolute lie.” A visibly angered Watts stared down Stone, when the pair returned to their seats beside each other on stage and she loudly repeated the remark again.

But it was not just Watts got into it on stage with Stone.

He and former advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson went at each other over their respective fiscal plans and the impact they would have on the B.C. budget. Wilkinson accused Stone of promises that would would result in a $13 billion deficit if Stone was to win the leadership and the Liberals were to form the next government.

Stone denied the accusation, saying his plan had been costed out and fit with a balanced budget.

At one point, the two men stood toe-to-toe on stage, arguing and talking over each other.

Wilkinson and Watts also sparred over who has travelled the most around B.C. and talked to British Columbians.

“I have have worked and lived all over British Columbia for years, so don’t lecture me Dianne,” Wilkinson told Watts at one point. “You’ve only done it for the last 2 1/2 months.”

The heated exchanges prompted candidate Sam Sullivan, a former mayor of Vancouver, to quip “the next debate will need a cage around us,” a reference to MMA caged fights.

The candidates responses were more measured when answering questions posed by moderator, Richmond-Queensborough Liberal MLA Jas Johal, about issues such as technology, health care, wildfire mitigation, housing affordability and winning back the confidence of voters across the province.

Former finance minister Mike de Jong said he believes the housing problems the province is facing is caused by a lack of supply and he would mandate municipalities to deal with building applications within 10 months of being made because now in places like Vancouver, applications can take years to make their way through city hall.

Lee said the party needs to to reconnect with urban and multi-cultural voters and he feels he’s the candidate to do that.

Sullivan said he would like to see elements of private health care introduced in B.C. where it would help the public health care system.

All the candidates expressed opposition to the NDP government’s planned referendum next year on proportional representation, saying it will take away rural B.C.’s voice in how future governments are elected.

Watts went so far as to say if the referendum—which will require a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one to pass—is not defeated, it would spell the end of BC Liberal Party.

Following the debate, some of the audience members said listening to the candidates helped them figure out who they may vote for in February. The party will name a new leader Feb. 3.

Jessie Fedorak, who travelled from Kamloops to attend the debate, said she liked what Stone had to say and felt he was the right man for the job, and at 45 was the right age to attract younger voters. Anne Marie Clancy of Kelowna said she liked Lee, feeling he could bridge the voter gap that resulted from the last election. And Delilah Michaud of Vernon, who was not willing to identify who she plans to vote for, said the debate helped narrow it down to three choices.

Both Clancy and Michaud said they were not impressed with Watts and have ruled her out because she seemed too focused on Lower Mainland issues.

Kelowna-Lake MLA Norm Letnick, who had said he would wait until after the Kelowna debate to decide who to support, said he plans to talk with his riding association before announcing his decision.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.



awaters@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No bucks for Ellison park expansion, ministry tells Vernon chamber

Vernon Chamber of Commerce vows to help government connect with potential funding partners to see Chelsea Estate purchased

COVID-19: Vernon fields and courts ready for booking

Local sport organizations will soon be able to get back out on the field for limited activities

$500 fine for Vernon man caught near Coldstream playground

Richard Slobodian, 58, served one night in jail and ordered to pay for breaching probation

House arrest for Vernon physiotherapist guilty of sexual assault

Stephen Witvoet to serve 18-month conditional sentencing following July 8 hearing

Kelowna woman fights off nighttime intruder

Kelowna RCMP are investigating a break-and-enter on Richter Street

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Kelowna taxpayers could pay $90K for losses caused by cancelled Memorial Cup

$135,000 would be put aside for a potential bid for a future opportunity to host the tournament

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Motorcycle rider seriously injured in collision with vehicle on Highway 97 west of Pritchard

Chase RCMP report that motorcycle was attempting to pass when crash occurred

Predator mutilated cats in Kelowna: BC SPCA

The BC SPCA confirmed a mutilated cat was killed by a predator

LETTER: Former Summerland mayors speak out on solar project

Five former Summerland mayors sign name to short letter

Emergency crews conduct CPR on unresponsive person in Okanagan Lake

West Kelowna emergency crews are on scene at the shores of Jubilee Mobile Home Park

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Most Read