Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong in his office at the B.C. legislature, Sept. 25, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Mike de Jong’s second shot at leadership

B.C. Liberal’s tight spending may be a blessing and a curse

Mike de Jong brings a more impressive resume to his second run for leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party, as a finance minister with the best track record in the country.

That string of balanced budgets and growing surpluses may be his biggest asset, and also a liability with party members who are still recovering from the party’s slow-motion fall from power over the summer. Legendary for his frugality, the Abbotsford West MLA was too frugal for some voters, leading to lost seats in Metro Vancouver and a lost grip on power as the NDP and B.C. Greens teamed up to form a minority government that could last for years to come.

Will party members and leadership rivals hold that against him, de Jong was asked in an interview with Black Press as he prepared to launch his leadership campaign on Tuesday.

“I’m not sure what I’ll hear,” de Jong said. “I hope I hear some new ideas from the candidates, because that’s my intention, to come to this with new ideas and try to appeal to that family, that mom sitting at a table with her kids, who are facing some challenges right now.

“And here we are in the richest province in the country, with the best economy, the best track record for job creation. We should be able to ensure that we’re sharing that wealth and that opportunity equitably.”

De Jong has caucus support including Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson, Chilliwack MLA John Martin, Richmond North Centre MLA and former international trade minister Teresa Wat, and he says “others will be on board” as the leadership campaign progresses.

Party members are to vote on ranked ballots with the results to be revealed Feb. 3, as the B.C. Liberals get set to face off in the legislature with the NDP-Green government as it launches its first full budget. There are party forums set for Vancouver, Surrey, Prince George, Nanaimo and the Thompson-Okanagan, plus a forum hosted by the B.C. Liberal Indigenous Network.

De Jong enters a growing field of candidates, including the front-runner in caucus support, Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan, and likely Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone in the days to come.

Also competing is Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts, who intends to quit her federal seat to enter B.C. politics, a decision de Jong was first to criticize.

“I think she will have some questions from long-standing members of the party about why she chose to remain so silent at a time when the free enterprise team was in a tough electoral fight, when many of her [federal Conservative] colleagues did not,” de Jong said.

Another challenge for de Jong and other leadership candidates is the shadow cast by former premier Christy Clark’s post-election throne speech that borrowed an income assistance increase, cancelling tolls on Metro Vancouver bridges and other measures from the NDP platform. It was based on substantially increased forecasts for income, real estate and sales tax revenues in the current fiscal year that were not revealed until a month after the May election.

“Finance ministers write budgets, and premiers write throne speeches,” de Jong said. “And in this case, Premier Clark believed that she wanted to signal, in a dramatic way, some changes. And to be fair, it was in June that we discovered the good year we were having was actually a great year, and we got updated numbers.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Head of Victoria homebuilders says provincial budget won’t solve housing crisis

Casey Edge of Victoria Residential Builders Association dismisses more modular housing as a band-aid

Study moves Oak Bay closer to contraceptive control for problem deer

The report says between 78 and 128 black tail deer live in the affluent beach-side community

Two missing Victoria children found safe

VicPD responded to two separate missing children calls Tuesday

Chim Chim Cher‑ee! Mary Poppins is coming to Oak Bay High

Mary Poppins opens Friday, Feb. 22, at the Dave Dunnet theatre

Crews repair damage after Tuesday night water main break in Langford

Flooding resulted in property damage, forced evacuation from Langford homes

VIDEO: Massive elk herd runs across Washington State highway

Elk have been making an appearance in the Pacific Northwest

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Winter storm freezes U.S., halts air travel

Storm dumps snow or heavy rain, snarls travel in much of U.S.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Skier sued me to exploit my fame, wealth

The incident happened in Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

Police seize bottles of grapefruit vodka from wanted man’s snow-pants

The men were pushing two shopping carts with a woman inside

Most Read