FORMER minister Mike de Jong on Tuesday announced his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership bid.
Liberal MLA and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan had announced his leadership bid last week on Thursday. Former Surrey mayor and Conservative MP Dianne Watts announced her candidacy on Sunday, while former ministers Andrew Wilkinson and Mike Bernier announced their bid on Monday.
Former minister Todd Stone as well as MLA Michael Lee are also expected to join the leadership race.
De Jong said that re-energising B.C.’s free-enterprise coalition will be job-one and emphasized the importance of the task ahead.
“By bringing together an expanded and diverse team of new supporters, we can develop an exciting vision for our province’s future that builds upon our record of having established B.C. as Canada’s leading economy,” the former finance minister said.
“It starts with responsible fiscal management and free-enterprise values, to lead a competitive economy that lets British Columbians thrive. Only by securing that sound fiscal basis can we lay the foundation for a strong society: to ensure every child has the opportunity for an education, every person has the dignity of a home, and all people can gain the tools for their independence and success,” de Jong said.
MLA for Richmond North Centre, Teresa Watt, said: “I have seen the high value Mike de Jong places on diversity, and he will stand to lead with free-market values that emphasize openness to the world and the knowledge that B.C. can be proud of its people and ideas, energy and resources. His accomplishments as a minister, his strong ties to communities, and his passion for a prosperous and successful British Columbia make him a leader who can draw on our province’s diversity to strike a bold vision for a prosperous future.”
Chilliwack MLA John Martin and Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson have also confirmed their support for de Jong.
“Mike offers pragmatic leadership that is ready both for today—as we stand up to the NDP government—and for tomorrow, when we offer B.C. voters a compelling alternative that delivers for hardworking British Columbians,” Martin said.
Gibson said: “I have worked closely with Mike both locally and in government, and I’ve seen the commitment and strength he offers both to the people of the community, and the people of the province. I have no doubt de Jong will deliver strong leadership today, and a vision for our province’s future that will attract growing support.”
Pat Bell, former minister who was MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie, is also backing de Jong.
De Jong said: “I am humbled and gratified by the support I’ve received from caucus colleagues, members, and people from across the province urging me to consider seeking the leadership. British Columbia wins when we have a strong team that values the diversity of our province and wants to work hard for the people in our province. I look forward to a conversation with British Columbians, so that together we can build a team that reflects the values of British Columbians and can help people achieve their aspirations.”
De Jong in a press statement noted that he introduced five consecutive balanced budgets and protected B.C.’s triple-A credit rating—the only province to retain triple-As with all three major international credit rating agencies. Besides having served as Minister of Health, Attorney General, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Minister of Labour and Citizens’ Services, and Minister of Forests, he was also Government House Leader.