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Bernier drops out of BC Liberal leadership race ahead of first debate

Last Updated Oct 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm PST

Mike de Jong (L) and Mike Bernier (R). (Hana Mae Nassar, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Says he will support former Finance Minister Mike de Jong

The party chooses a new boss in February of 2018

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The former education minister has announced he will drop out of the race for the top job of the BC Liberals. Instead, Mike Bernier says he is throwing his support behind Mike de Jong.

Bernier says he polled well in both the north and in the Interior among voters, but simply couldn’t break through on the Lower Mainland. He adds the decision is “for the benefit of the party.”

The MLA for Peace River South served as education minister under former premier Christy Clark, who resigned as the party leader and as a sitting MLA back in August.

He was asked why he was dropping out of the race now. “Michael de Jong has not only the experience but the track record when it comes to working within party. When you look at the history he has, as finance minister, all the ministries he’s held — he has the respect of people internally in our party. And he has the respect of British Columbians. So for me, again, it’s about making sure we have the right person who can take all those attributes. I’m excited to be part of that team because I’ll bring something… as well as everybody else that’s going to be part of this, to make sure we represent all British Columbians and make sure we can keep our party strong and win the next election.”

At this morning’s news conference in Downtown Vancouver, de Jong spoke highly of Bernier. “This is a man with principal. This is a man with courage. This is a man with his own vision for what British Columbia can become.”

Bernier’s announcement comes the day before candidates are set to face off in the first debate of the debate of the campaign before party members choose a new leader next February. He will now co-chair the de Jong campaign.

Seven candidates are now left in the race, including de Jong, Todd Stone, Andrew Wilkinson, Sam Sullivan, Michael Lee, Dianne Watts and Lucy Sager.