KAMLOOPS — BC Liberal Party members have begun voting today for the next leader of their party and a retired political scientist likes Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone's chances.
Stone is one of six candidates vying for the top job which became available after previous leader Christy Clark resigned last summer. The other candidates are all from the Lower Mainland: Mike de Jong, Michael Lee, Sam Sullivan, Dianne Watts and Andrew Wilkinson. Rich Coleman has led the party in the interim.
Retired Thompson Rivers University political science instructor Ray Pillar says being from outside the larger population centres may be to Stone's advantage.
"I think he'll probably get a benefit from splitting the vote of the various Lower Mainland candidates. He might stand a good chance. He's not as well known naturally to the larger areas where the population is, but with several other candidates to split that up that gives him a pretty good chance."
He adds the way the vote is structured, whereby all 87 ridings in the province are given 100 points to award to a candidate, could help as well.
"That was probably what encouraged him to do that because he's relatively young and with one term in office you would not normally give him a really good chance but because he's all by himself in the Interior, that probably encourages you to put your hat in the ring."
Pillar doesn't think the controversy surrounding ICBC finances this week, which the NDP called a "financial dumpster fire," will hurt Stone, who happened to be the minister responsible for ICBC for a time during the Liberals' last term in office.
"Probably not. It might be more of a problem for the party than it is for the individual candidates. It's something they all have to deal with; not just Todd."
All things considered, Pillar says he's putting his money behind Stone.
"I think he's in an encouraging position so I'd probably throw my loonie in for Todd," Pillar says. "I'm going to bet on that split ballot to help him out."
Voting will take place online and by phone. The party says if no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the province-wide points when the votes are counted, then the candidate with the fewest points is eliminated from the race.
When a candidate is eliminated, his or her votes will be reassigned according to each voter’s next preference as indicated by the ranking on their ballot.
This process will continue until one candidate has more than 50 per cent of the province-wide points.
Stone will meet his supporters when he holds a rally tonight at 6 p.m. at the Sandman Centre.
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