Michael Lee, MLA for Vancouver-Langara and candidate for the BC Liberal leadership, makes a stop in Hope ahead of the February vote. (Emelie Peacock photo)

BC Liberal leadership hopeful Micheal Lee stops in Hope

Only party members can vote in leadership vote Feb. 1-3

BC Liberal candidate Michael Lee spoke with a half dozen Hope residents on a tour stop ahead of an early February leadership election.

Lee heard from residents concerned about housing affordability, local health care and the situation of Hope as an in-between community, one which can get missed with the focus on the Okanagan and the Lower Mainland.

“They were talking about their children and grandchildren, some of them were living in the Lower Mainland. Ensuring they can find places to live, to raise their families and to work in this area in terms of building their futures. That’s a concern I hear all over this province,” he said.

Lee said the solution to housing affordability lies in partnerships between the province and both municipalities and local developers. Looking at zoning and tying transportation and housing together were two policy directions he mentioned.

A focus for Lee is changing the perception of the BC Liberals as being only about jobs and the economy. He said the party needs to become more authentic, more grasroots and actually show British Columbians that politicians care about topics like the environment.

“In the last election, in 2017, there was a perception, and we saw that at the ballot box, where B.C. voters didn’t seem to think anymore that we cared about the other issues,” he said.

Lee said he is not deterred by the rookie label he often gets, compared to other candidates who have held positions as mayors and ministers and with more time spent as MLAs.

“I may be a rookie in the legislature, but I’ve waited a long time to step forward,” said Lee, now serving his first term as Vancouver-Langara MLA.

Members of the BC Liberal Party vote by online ballot starting Feb. 1, the leader will be determined after voting wraps up Feb. 3. Lee is up against candidates Todd Stone, Sam Sullivan, Dianne Watts and Andrew Wilkinson.

Only BC Liberal party members already signed up to the party can vote.

Six Liberal Leadership Candidates Remaining

Mike de Jong has been an Abbotsford-area MLA since replacing Social Credit leader Grace McCarthy in a 1994 by-election. He served in most major cabinet roles, including five years as finance minister before the B.C. Liberal government’s defeat last year.

De Jong’s policy suggestions include expanding Mandarin language education in B.C. schools, moving the B.C. forest ministry headquarters from Victoria to Prince George, and offering parents full-day Kindergarten for four-year-olds.

Michael Lee is a rookie MLA elected to represent Vancouver-Langara in 2017, and a former membership director for the B.C. Liberal Party. His policy book includes a pledge to make B.C. “gasoline free” by 2050, increase electric car incentives and promote car sharing. He wants to increase funding for school and community libraries and also increase independent and home-schooling options for parents.

Todd Stone is the second-term MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson and former transportation minister. He has proposed dedicating B.C. tax revenues from the sale of legalized marijuana to deal with addiction and overdoses of hard drugs. In health care, he proposes to build more government-funded primary care centres in B.C. communities and increase training spaces for nurse practitioners.

Sam Sullivan is a former Vancouver mayor serving his second term as MLA for Vancouver-False Creek. Sullivan has shaken up debates with his suggestion that the B.C. Liberal Party should bring back the Harmonized Sales Tax in a modified form to make it more popular. He is also proposing selling B.C. government liquor stores to their employees, similar to the way B.C. highway maintenance was privatized.

Dianne Watts is the former Surrey mayor who resigned as Conservative MP for Surrey-White Rock to enter the B.C. Liberal leadership contest as the only candidate without a seat in the legislature. Her proposals include reinstating year-round seniors’ discounts on B.C. Ferries, increase funding for community-based social and supportive housing and stop the provincial government from taking a dividend from B.C. Hydro and other Crown corporations.

Andrew Wilkinson is a former party president in his second term as MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena. He has emphasized his opposition to the NDP-B.C. Green effort to convert to a proportional representation voting system, which he says will weaken rural B.C. Wilkinson wants to abolish small business income tax on family businesses, increase mental health and addictions services and keep government stores out of marijuana retail sales.

-With files from Tom Fletcher

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