B.C. Liberal Party members picked Christy Clark as successor to Premier Gordon Campbell Saturday after a four month leadership campaign that effectively regenerated the party and revived the popularity of the Liberal government that has run the province for the past decade.
Almost 90,000 members were eligible to vote by phone or online for the party leader who would automatically become the 35th premier of British Columbia. Those who voted on the web can cast a ballot in English, French, Chinese and Punjabi but phone callers must speak English.
The new premier and party leader was announced shortly after 6:30 p.m. at a BC Liberal Party rally at the new Vancouver Convention Centre.
Four long time Liberals who had all served in Mr. Campbell's cabinet were on the ballot: Christy Clark, Kevin Falcon, George Abbott, and Mike de Jong. Ms. Clark, who was most recently a radio talk show host, began and finished as the front-runner. Mr. Falcon, who has been described as Gordon Campbell on steroids, received the most support from the business community and raised the most money during his campaign . Mr. Abbott was the only candidate from outside the Lower Mainland. Mr. de Jong, who has a base of support in the Fraser Valley, was considered to have little chance to win. Columnist Gary Mason assessed how the candidates defined themselves.
Following months of widespread anger over the HST, the campaign was mostly a low key affair that generated few sparks. None of the four offered a significant break with the past. Ms. Clark occasionally stumbled on government policy and reversed herself on how she would handle the HST controversy. Mr. Falcon said he would lower the HST to 10 per cent from the current rate of 12 per cent, and proposed merit pay for teachers. Mr. Abbott said he would reverse some recent budget cuts. Mr. de Jong did not unveil any substantive new policies.
Candidates were solidifying support in the final days of the campaign with each candidate confident that they would be the first to cross the finish line.
A snafu in mailing out personal identification numbers for online and phone voting led to last-minute arrangements Friday to handle a flood of phone calls from members seeking help.
Party officials decided late Friday to go ahead with the vote, regardless of the problems. With concern about irregularities in voting, the party on its website warns it is illegal to represent yourself as another person, use their personal identification number and steal their right to vote in an election. "If you know someone has voted your PIN illegally, you should report it to the party's officials," the website advises.
The event will not have the traditional excitement of a political convention with several rounds of voting, quiet conversations along the sidelines and high profile shifts in support on the convention-floor. The members are required to cast a ballot for at least two candidates when they vote. A 50 per cent plus one vote is required to win. If no one has over 50 per cent after the first-choice votes are cast, officials will look to second choices on the ballots. The candidate who finishes fourth will be dropped off the ballot and the second choice of those ballots will be transferred to the remaining three. If none of the candidates has 50 plus one, the third place candidate will drop off and officials will look to the third choices of those ballots.
The rally did not include a tribute to the outgoing premier. The Liberals decided to do something at their annual party convention in May.
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Our team of reporters - Justine Hunter, Ian Bailey, Rod Mickleburgh and Robert Matas - will be following the candidates, blogging and Tweeting throughout the day with news, pictures, video and audio.