Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone is the eighth candidate to replace Christy Clark as leader of the B.C. Liberal Party.
Stone begins his run with a series of events Tuesday, in Surrey, Victoria and then a rally in his home town. The launch was announced by Peter Fassbender, the former Langley City mayor who lost his seat in May to the NDP’s Jagrup Brar, the incumbent he knocked off in 2013.
Other likely front-runners are Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong, the former finance minister, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA and former party president Andrew Wilkinson and Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, who took over from Fassbender as education minister before the B.C. Liberals lost power this summer.
Also seeking the leadership are former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, in his second term as MLA for Vancouver-False Creek, rookie Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee and Terrace business business owner and political newcomer Lucy Sager.
The Lower Mainland is a key battleground for the B.C. Liberals, who lost nine seats there to the NDP in the May election while strengthening their hold on the B.C. Interior. The party was reduced to a single seat on Vancouver Island, held by Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell.
Support outside the urban core is vital to the leadership contestants, because the B.C. Liberal Party assigns 100 points to each of the province’s 87 constituencies, to give equal weight to each despite the large majority of party members who live in large cities.
The party has set a spending cap of $600,000 for leadership candidates, with another $50,000 required to pay for the online vote set for early February a series of debates and forums around the province.
The next event is Oct. 15 in Surrey, followed by events in Prince George, Nanaimo, the Thompson-Okanagan and one hosted by the B.C. Liberal Indigenous Network.
The deadline to renew or join the party in time to vote or to run for the leadership is Friday, Dec. 29, with the cost of a membership remaining at $10.