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Former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan seeking BC Liberal leadership

Last Updated Sep 22, 2017 at 7:24 am PDT

(Photo via Twitter: @sam_sullivan)

Sam Sullivan was mayor of Vancouver for three years, before being elected to the legislature in 2012

Dianne Watts is expected to announce she wants the job this weekend in Surrey

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan has announced he is entering the race for the position of boss of the BC Liberals, but it’s expected to be a crowded field.

The race for the top job comes after former party leader and Premier Christy Clark resigned at the beginning of August.

Sullivan was mayor from 2005 to 2008. He was re-elected as the MLA for Vancouver-False Creek in a re-count in the May election. He’s the first Liberal to officially announce a bid for the leadership.

Sullivan has promised to bring more “urban and youth support to the party.”

In a video on his website, Sullivan touches on a couple of controversial issues including housing and the opioid crisis. “Twelve years ago as mayor of Vancouver my two policy priorities were to increase the supply of housing for affordability and to offer substitution treatment to end the overdose crisis. Today, house prices and overdose deaths are higher than ever.”

He goes on to make some promises about how he would fix both problems. “As leader, I will modernize city government so cities no longer prevent housing but create housing. And add hundreds of homes for rental, now empty because of Strata rules.”

Sullivan says he’ll also put an end to the opioid crisis, which was declared a public health emergency in April 2016. “I’ll end the overdose crisis so no one with an addiction will have to turn to dangerous street drugs. This will reduce gun violence, homelessness, prostitution by victimized women and free up emergency rooms for you.”

He also says he’ll bring in a Modernized Sales Tax that will “have all the advantages of the HST, but exempts some goods and services for low-income people.”

Crowded field expected in Liberal leadership race

Although Sullivan is the first to officially put his name forward, plenty more Liberals are likely to announce bids.

It’s expected that former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts will announce her entry into the race in Surrey this Sunday and that current BC Liberal MLA Andrew Wilkinson will throw his name into the ring on Monday.

David Moscrop, a political scientist with Simon Fraser University, says the Liberal race will be hotly contested, for a couple of reasons.

“For one, the BC Liberals are still a perfectly viable party. And two, there’s a pretty good chance that whoever wins has a pretty much even shot, or better than even shot, of becoming Premier in four years,” he says.

“This isn’t running to be the leader of a party that has no shot at government. This is running to be the leader of a party that’s been in government more often than not over the past two decades. So that’s going to attract a lot of people.”

Moscrop says whoever gets the job will need to define what kind of Liberal party they want to lead.

“Because the party is ripe to be rebranded, it’s anybody’s contest.”

“The Liberal party is going to have to learn from the mistakes they made in 2017, which is, they moved a little too far right… I think they became arrogant and took a lot of votes for granted. Now they’re going to have to come back a little more humble.”

He says Sullivan is popular and has name recognition, which make him a chance at the leadership. He says Sullivan’s knowledge of municipal politics and understanding of key issues such as transportation will be to his advantage.

Interim Party Leader Rich Coleman has said there are several people interested in the job, but he hasn’t given any names.

The party has announced the date for the first of its six party leadership debates which will be held on October 15th in Surrey.