Re-elected Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone will consider taking another run at the B.C. Liberal Party leadership when the time is right.
For now, however, he said the party needs to be focused more on a period of reflection as well as the next session of the legislature, expected in February..
“The whole party needs to take a deep breath and really assess what happened in this last election and why our party was rejected by so many British Columbians in the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland,” Stone said.
He said he hopes the party takes the next six to nine months to conduct an internal review, asking itself “who we are and what kind of party do we want to be moving forward.”
As expected, B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announced on Monday (Oct. 26) that he will be stepping down as party leader following Saturday’s loss in the provincial election.
In a short and direct announcement on Facebook, with no questions taken from media, Wilkinson said it is time for a new look at the top of the party.
“Leading the B.C. Liberals has been a great honour, but now it’s time for me to make room for someone else to take over this role,” he said.
Wilkinson said he will stay on as leader until the party selects a successor, the timeline for which is not known, calling it a “challenging and exciting process of rebuilding the party.”
Wilkinson’s announcement comes two days after his party lost more than a dozen seats in Saturday’s provincial election and saw the B.C. NDP move from governing in a minority situation to grasping a majority in the legislature.
Stone said it is clear the Liberals’ messaging didn’t resonate with voters in the Lower Mainland, noting the party didn’t do the “heavy lifting” required to rebuild itself to voters coming out of the narrow 2017 election win that was followed by government falling.
“It’s got to take place now,” he said.
In 2018, Stone said, the party needed to choose new leader quickly as the NDP had a minority government that could have fallen at any moment. With the NDP now securing a majority, there’s a clear four-year window in which the Liberals can take their time, though Stone hopes the next leader is chosen by the fall of 2021.
Wilkinson, MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena, succeeded Christy Clark in a 2018 leadership race that featured Stone, who was knocked out in the third round of voting.
Rumoured possibilities for the next Liberal leadership race include Stone, former Surrey Mayor Diane Watts and former Liberal minister of finance Kevin Falcon, who ran and lost to Clark in the 2011 leadership race to succeed Gordon Campbell.
Clark said recently she hopes the leadership race attracts people who are not sitting MLAs.
Stone said he doesn’t think the leader necessarily needs to be someone from outside the party, but feels the Liberals need to bring in some fresh faces as members and candidates.
“This party needs to get younger, we need more women to run as candidates, we need more diverse candidates and we need all of the above in ridings that we can win. That’s how we’re truly going to make sure that are party is reflective of what British Columbia actually looks like,” Stone said.
He said the party needs to decide what type of values and priorities it will have moving forward and determine how it will be more relevant in its vision for the province.