On October 10, Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone became the eighth and final candidate to announce that he would be seeking the leadership of the BC Liberal Party; and following the withdrawal of candidate Mike Bernier late last week, Stone is now one of only two people from a non-urban riding who is hoping to succeed Christy Clark as the Liberal Party leader.
Speaking with The Journal last week, Stone said that it was a decision he made after consulting with his wife and three young daughters (aged seven, 11, and 13). “We took our time as a family to get to a place of all being comfortable with this. If our family wasn’t able to be comfortable knowing we could make this work, then we weren’t going to do it. So it was very much a family decision. That’s why we took a bit more time than some of the other candidates in the race.”
When it’s pointed out that his daughters have probably never known anything other than their father being in politics, Stone agrees. “This is obviously a step to a different level. As all parents are, we’re protective of our daughters, and want to make sure that decisions we make are decisions that are going to be good for them as well.”
When asked what he brings to the table as a rural candidate, Stone says he’s going to win the leadership race and defeat John Horgan at the next election. “I’m the youngest candidate in the race, at 45; I’m the guy with young, school-aged children, so I understand the challenges of families; I’m a tech CEO, so I’m well plugged into where the economy is going and what we need to be doing.
“And I do represent Kamloops, which is a nice microcosm for the province. It is an urban centre, but it’s very much set in a rural region, and its economy is still largely dependent on our traditional resource sector. As someone who’s worked in mining, who’s worked in forestry, but is also a tech CEO, I think I bring an understanding of both rural and urban British Columbia to the table.”
Stone acknowledges that his time as Minister of Transportation took him all over the province, and gave him insight into remote communities. “I spent a tremendous amount of time all over British Columbia, as a small businessperson and as vice-chair of the Thompson Rivers University board for six years and as a cabinet minister with one of the more senior roles, transportation, which took me all over the province. That, coupled with living in Kamloops and having worked in mining in particular, I think I have a pretty intimate knowledge of rural British Columbia and the challenges we face today, and where some of the opportunities are moving forward.”
Stone says that his platform includes a rural economic development strategy, which he’ll be talking about in more detail over the coming weeks. “I’ll be putting forward a number of very specific ideas as to what I think we need to be doing to help British Columbians across rural B.C.; communities that have been hard hit by the downturn in the forest sector or because of the wildfires, and others that have seen big mining and big energy projects that haven’t gone ahead. We have to make sure that these communities have the resources to diversify their economies, so that people can stay in the areas that they love.”
Asked how he will address the needs of urban ridings, where the Liberals lost ground in the last election, Stone says that he thinks British Columbians across the province—whether in rural or urban ridings—acknowledge that the Liberals are good economic managers. “We balance budgets, we keep taxes down, we created lots of jobs. I think, where we missed the mark going into the last election, was frankly that there were some areas British Columbians wanted us to invest in more, and they felt we had missed the mark on the social side in some respects. That’s why, in my leadership announcement, I made it clear that my leadership will be a lot about investing in childcare and early childhood development; it’ll be a lot about British Columbia resuming its role as a climate leader, a lot about investing in better supports for seniors.
“I think we need to demonstrate to British Columbians all across the province that we have heart, and that being a good economic manager is what allows us to invest in the services people need. I think that’s the piece that was missing in the last election, and I’m going to try to shine a bright light on it, and I think that’s how we will bring back those British Columbians who may have voted for other parties in the last election.
“I’m so excited to be offering British Columbians a new generation of leadership, and I’m so excited to be from Kamloops but someone with a perspective that criss-crosses this whole province. I can’t wait to get out there and begin this conversation, and do a lot of listening; sit down with British Columbians and understand what their concerns and challenges are. Together we can restore this province back to the path of prosperity we’ve enjoyed for so many years.”