Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong in his office at the B.C. legislature, Sept. 25, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Mike de Jong’s second shot at leadership

B.C. Liberal’s tight spending may be a blessing and a curse

Mike de Jong brings a more impressive resume to his second run for leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party, as a finance minister with the best track record in the country.

That string of balanced budgets and growing surpluses may be his biggest asset, and also a liability with party members who are still recovering from the party’s slow-motion fall from power over the summer. Legendary for his frugality, the Abbotsford West MLA was too frugal for some voters, leading to lost seats in Metro Vancouver and a lost grip on power as the NDP and B.C. Greens teamed up to form a minority government that could last for years to come.

Will party members and leadership rivals hold that against him, de Jong was asked in an interview with Black Press as he prepared to launch his leadership campaign on Tuesday.

“I’m not sure what I’ll hear,” de Jong said. “I hope I hear some new ideas from the candidates, because that’s my intention, to come to this with new ideas and try to appeal to that family, that mom sitting at a table with her kids, who are facing some challenges right now.

“And here we are in the richest province in the country, with the best economy, the best track record for job creation. We should be able to ensure that we’re sharing that wealth and that opportunity equitably.”

De Jong has caucus support including Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson, Chilliwack MLA John Martin, Richmond North Centre MLA and former international trade minister Teresa Wat, and he says “others will be on board” as the leadership campaign progresses.

Party members are to vote on ranked ballots with the results to be revealed Feb. 3, as the B.C. Liberals get set to face off in the legislature with the NDP-Green government as it launches its first full budget. There are party forums set for Vancouver, Surrey, Prince George, Nanaimo and the Thompson-Okanagan, plus a forum hosted by the B.C. Liberal Indigenous Network.

De Jong enters a growing field of candidates, including the front-runner in caucus support, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan, and likely Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone in the days to come.

Also competing is Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts, who intends to quit her federal seat to enter B.C. politics, a decision de Jong was first to criticize.

“I think she will have some questions from long-standing members of the party about why she chose to remain so silent at a time when the free enterprise team was in a tough electoral fight, when many of her [federal Conservative] colleagues did not,” de Jong said.

Another challenge for de Jong and other leadership candidates is the shadow cast by former premier Christy Clark’s post-election throne speech that borrowed an income assistance increase, cancelling tolls on Metro Vancouver bridges and other measures from the NDP platform. It was based on substantially increased forecasts for income, real estate and sales tax revenues in the current fiscal year that were not revealed until a month after the May election.

“Finance ministers write budgets, and premiers write throne speeches,” de Jong said. “And in this case, Premier Clark believed that she wanted to signal, in a dramatic way, some changes. And to be fair, it was in June that we discovered the good year we were having was actually a great year, and we got updated numbers.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Poor ventilation likely cause of carbon monoxide incident at Delta farm

All 42 patients have been released from hospital, according to Delta Fire

Medieval holiday concert, Winter Harp, returns to Chilliwack Cultural Centre Stage

Magical backdrops of cathedrals and wisps of snow set the stage for Winter Harp, a wondrous concert experience set to capture the joy and spirit of the holiday season.

It’s more than Hope that makes the community great

Warm-hearted and fascinating people made reporter’s brief stay in Hope one he’ll never forget

Muddy water has Hope resident seeking a remedy

No one sure of cause, but solution needed

Christmas at Hope’s food bank a busy time for volunteers

Volunteers and love make the difference

VIDEO: Christmas at Kilby feast kicks off holiday eating

Sold-out event driven by volunteer staff

Site C decision coming Monday morning

Premier John Horgan to announce fate of dam project at B.C. legislature

VIDEO: Man frustrated that Vancouver taxi driver won’t take him home to New Westminster

Kuldip Gill says that not being able to get a ride to the suburbs is a constant problem

Legacy of Amanda Todd lives on through B.C. foundation

Todd’s mother Carol stresses the importance of putting the phone down and talking with children

UPDATE: Train hits hydro pole, causes outage near Deltaport

No injuries reported but traffic in and out of Deltaport is blocked

VIDEO: Vancouver Whitecaps acquire star striker Kei Kamara

Kamara has 103 goals and 39 assists in 298 appearances over 11 Major League Soccer seasons

Smartphone pedometers underestimate steps, but valuable health tool: study

UBC researchers found the iPhone underestimated steps by 21.5 per cent

VIDEO: ‘Last Jedi’ premiere kicks off with droids, Daisy Ridley

Latests Star Wars film premiered in style ahead of Dec. 15 theatre debut

Most Read