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A day after entering the rather crowded BC Liberal leadership race, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA and former transportation minister Todd Stone talked about "tough lessons."

The man who often chided the TransLink Mayors' Council issued a mea culpa – of sorts.

"A lesson for me that I really want to apply moving forward is, you know, I think we had our elbows up a bit too much with the mayors. I think the tone of the conversation was not always one of partnership and working together," he said in an interview.

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Elbows up is putting it mildly. Mr. Stone clashed with the Mayors' Council at every turn. As one of then-Premier Christy Clark's most loyal foot soldiers, he championed the nonsensical and doomed-to-fail-referendum on transit funding. He chided the mayors for not coming up with a long-term transportation plan for the region but tied their hands when it came to a way to pay for it, suggesting time and again that they should look to an increase in property taxes.

He also championed the construction of a $3.5-billion, 10-lane toll bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel – a project supported by just one of the 21 mayors on the council and a project that completely disregarded Metro Vancouver's regional growth strategy and greenhouse gas emissions targets.

It should be noted that it was on Mr. Stone's watch that local mayors were given more control of TransLink, but that came along with the requirement for a referendum on any new sources of funding, so it was hardly a gift.

Now, as a Liberal leadership contender, Mr. Stone says the mayors' 10-year transportation strategy is "a great plan" that has withstood the test of time. He says the province needs to be a good, reliable funding partner and that under his leadership he would move forward with it.

"There was too much tension, too much political calculation," he said, while announcing his leadership bid in Surrey this week. "We need to stop telling local communities and regions what's best for them."

Mr. Stone also suggested that he didn't always agree with decisions made around the cabinet table. "When you're in cabinet, you're part of a team and there are some issues when a decision is taken that don't represent where you are. But they're team-based decisions, so I think that a leadership process is a perfect opportunity to turn the page and inject a new set of priorities moving forward," he said.

Beyond the issue of transportation, Mr. Stone is walking a well-worn path, talking very generally about affordability, increasing child care and early childhood education and embracing the tech sector.

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He sees himself as the face of "a fresh, new generation of leadership" with a young family and three children in public school.

But if the BC Liberals are looking to put some distance between themselves and the Christy Clark administration, Todd Stone is an unlikely choice. The same could be said of former finance minister Mike de Jong, or anyone else who held a cabinet position in the previous government.

And given his past relationship with local mayors, Mr. Stone is an especially unlikely choice for a party that is desperate to win over Lower Mainland voters.

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 88.1 FM and 690 AM in Vancouver.

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