VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The gloves certainly came off last night as the remaining candidates to lead the BC Liberal Party squared off for their final debate.
Sparks flew and things got contentious while a clear divide quickly emerged among the half-dozen leadership hopefuls.
“There was at least one dominant theme and that was sort of between the old guard, represented by Andrew Wilkinson and Mike de Jong, sort of steady as she goes for the party,” says University of the Fraser Valley political scientist Hamish Telford.
“Versus the new guard trying to break in, Sam Sullivan and Todd Stone already in the legislature and Mike Lee, and Dianne Watts as the newcomers trying to break in. It will be interesting to see how the members decide, do they want to go with the old guard or do they want a change of the guard,” says Telford.
And although he says there was no clear winner, this debate was far stronger than the previous one.
“Candidates I think have improved in their delivery. As we get closer to the vote, stakes seemed higher and they more passionate. The stakes seem higher and they were more passionate. There were more sparks in this debate. So from an entertainment-perspective, it was considerably better than the one a few months ago.”
The best exchange probably came when Wilkinson said Lee was new and would grow into the job. Lee quickly retorted that attitudes like that are why the party fell finds itself as the official opposition.
“It was a spicy exchange between Mike Lee and Andrew Wilkinson,” says Telford.
“We did see some very spirited debate. Mike de Jong and Andrew Wilkinson, no admission of friendship with Dianne Watts. They were seriously attacking her. Six months ago they could afford to be polite to eachother, but now, down to the wire, they’re pulling out all the stops.”
The party will start a three-day voting process to choose a new leader next Thursday (Feb. 1) and announce the winner on Saturday (Feb. 3).