KAMLOOPS — He was probably hoping he didn’t have to make the decision quite this early. Todd Stone will decide soon whether or not he will seek the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party.
It’s a tough decision, and is coming earlier than he would have liked. Let’s examine some of the things that have to be looked at. First of all, the Liberals obviously didn’t impress voters in the Lower Mainland overall, based on the number of seats they won. So what does that mean for the Liberals? Do they have to look at a candidate from the Lower Mainland to try and get back into the graces of those who seem to have been disenfranchised? If so, who would that be? If they choose someone from the Lower Mainland, should it be someone with an ethnic background, or does it matter?
The Interior is well represented by the Liberals. Is someone from the Interior a possible choice, given the fact that it plays to the Liberals strength, and allows them to fan out and concentrate on getting a few more seats from the NDP or Greens?
Should it be a younger candidate? There’s no doubt that there are good candidates in the party who are older, but I think if the Liberals are going to regain ground, they need to find someone younger than a Rich Coleman, or Mike DeJong. They need someone who can be the new face of the reconstituted Liberal Party. But if they go that route, can it be someone with little political experience, or should it be someone who has some background.
If we look to young faces in the party, people like William Lee and Jas Johal have been mentioned. If you don’t count their couple of weeks in office after the election, they have zero experience as an MLA. Doesn’t mean they couldn’t do the job, but to have no experience is a detriment, especially since an election could take place within the next year or two. If the NDP had won a majority, and a government was certain for another four years, it would give an inexperienced MLA time to get warmed up. Aside from Lee and Johal, who could be great candidates next time around, there are others on the Lower Mainland who could do well, but will they run?
Outside the Lower Mainland, Todd Stone is certainly one of the more experienced candidates, and he has been considered a future contender for the party leadership. He has the ability to do the job, as evidenced by his role as Transportation Minister. He was certainly in the caucus’s good graces as an MLA and Minister. He has been groomed for this role. But is now the time, and that’s what Stone has to consider. You don’t want to run too soon, because you lose next time, and your star fades fast. You don’t run, and someone strong gets in, and wins the next election, then a couple of terms down the road, you’re starting to get on the older side of the curve, and it makes it harder for you.
Those are the difficulties facing our Kamloops-South Thompson MLA. Either way, it’s a tough decision. If there were some real gun in the Lower Mainland, that would be one thing, but there isn’t. Not really, from what I see. Unless you go to one of the old MLA’s, and I don’t think that’s what you want. So why not give it a shot? If you lose, you’re still not likely to be defeated as an MLA in a safe riding for quite a while, so I don’t see that as an issue. Are there other potential candidates from outside the Lower Mainland? Certainly, but are they in areas where it would be easy to travel back and forth to Victoria? That’s always a problem for potential candidates from the North or the Kootenays.
There will be few MLA’s who aren’t right now assessing their chances, and trying to determine if they can lobby some support for a run to replace Christy Clark. I think Todd Stone has as good a shot as anyone. And maybe the Interior is due for a leader again. I don’t consider Christy Clark an Interior person, as she’s always been from the coast, and only ran in the safe seat of Kelowna when she was defeated in Vancouver-Point Grey. So we go back to Bill Bennett to find a premier from outside the Lower Mainland. If Todd can raise the support, monetarily and volunteer-wise, now might be his time.