Stone confident in final ballot showdown with Dianne Watts

By Chad Klassen
February 1, 2018 - 9:11pm Updated: February 1, 2018 - 10:48pm

KAMLOOPS — Todd Stone entered the Valley First Lounge on Thursday night to loud music and partisan cheers from family, friends and supporters, less than two days before the B.C. Liberal Party decides its next leader. 

The rally came nearly four months after Stone first rallied in Kamloops in October. He's now been across the province and back, but nearing the finish line. 

"This has been an unbelieveable ride, privilege of a ride to criss cross the province," said Stone. "Meet so many dynamic British Columbians really inspired about a vision that speaks to the future."

WATCH: Todd Stone's final rally in Kamloops

With less than two days until the final count on Saturday night, Stone is feeling confident, backed up by numbers from his campaign team, the leadership will be between him and former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts. 

"We signed up a lot of new members, but we're also very strong with the pre-existing 30,000 members in this party. We know who's voted and in what riding," he noted. "We apply our analytics to that. This race is going to come down to a Todd Stone-Dianne Watts final. Whether that's on a third ballot or fourth ballot, we'll see."

Stone said after the first day of voting, more than 50% of Liberal members — about 1,300 in Kamloops-South Thompson — have voted. His campaign team referenced a 12% voter turnout for Mike de Jong's home riding of Abbotsford West.

De Jong and others candidates have attacked Stone, including about invalid memberships. Stone said Thursday night following the rally that "the party has said all the campaigns have had the same number of rejected ballots. I have no idea how many each campaign has had. We had some and they were ballots that were rejected by the party due to a lack of information." 

Candidates like Andrew Wilkinson have been critical of the former transportation minister for how he handled transit in the Lower Mainland. Stone has also been in the crossfires of the news that ICBC could lose as much as $1.3 billion after the final quarter of this fiscal year. 

"I think it's regrettable that some of the campaigns have embraced desperation tactics, which clearly signals they're trailing, they're behind in this campaign," said Stone. "I'm very proud of our effort. We have been positive, we've been clean. We've played by the rules the entire time. It's now up to the members of this party to decide whether they want to embrace a leadership style of the past, whether they want to embrace division, old school ways of doing things, or whether they want to embrace the future and do things differently."

Stone's former colleague in the Legislative Assembly, and the province's former health minister, Terry Lake flew back to Kamloops from Ottawa for the rally. He said Stone can easily make the transition into party leader if he wins. 

"I saw Todd in 2013 go right into a very important cabinet position. I saw how hard he worked, how he developed. I saw what it meant to him to represent the people of Kamloops and all British Columbians," said Lake, who was joined by Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar to support Stone. "I have every confidence that this is the best person to be the next premier of our province."

The party will annouced the next Liberal leader on Saturday night, Feb. 3. 

Stone says it's up to the NDP government to turn ICBC around