Placing odds on the next BC Liberal Party leader

Who will replace the newly departed Andrew Wilkinson?

Credit: Michael Lee on Twitter

Liberal MLA Michael Lee might be next in line for the party’s leadership

Who will replace the newly resigned Andrew Wilkinson?

All things considered, Andrew Wilkinson’s resignation speech was quite appropriate.

Lasting just over a minute, featuring zero accountability and apparently delivered without consulting the rest of his caucus, the former BC Liberal Party head honcho’s farewell really was a Coles Notes reading of his time as leader: short, completely uninspiring and troubling for the group that governed this province for 16 consecutive years, from 2001 to 2017.

After their worst defeat in decades, the BC Liberals will be left to pick up the pieces and prepare themselves for another fight in four years’ time. Whom they pick as leader and the face of the party will be a pivotal decision that could define B.C. politics for the foreseeable future.

Although Wilkinson looked like a safe bet last time, he turned out to be a misguided choice. There will be no room for mistakes now, not with the party losing vote share in every region of the province.

Normally, we’d look to BCLC for guidance on this topic, in the form of betting odds on the next leader. But like the rest of the country, that institution is apparently too busy looking down south (apparently there’s an election coming up there?). 

So we’ll do our best to set the odds ourselves. Unfortunately, you can’t actually put money on these, but you can use that cash to buy a subscription to our magazine if you need a place for it. Just saying.

Let’s get to it.

The Returnees

Michael Lee: 2 to 1

There are many who believe that if Lee had won the race to replace Christy Clark in 2018 (he came third despite winning the most votes over the first four rounds—Andrew Wilkinson didn’t seem to mind ranked-ballot voting systems back then), the Liberals would have seen much better results in the recent election.

 mail-in ballots, it looks like the former lawyer has won again in Vancouver-Langara, which would make two fairly tight wins in a row. Lee, first elected in 2017, doesn’t have the baggage from being part of former Liberal governments that clearly weighed down Wilkinson. All things considered, he seems like a decent bet to breathe some new life into the party.

Todd Stone: 5 to 1 

Unlike fellow leadership candidates Dianne Watts and Mike de Jong, Stone, who came fourth in the 2018 contest, is reportedly already mulling throwing his name into the hat  again. 

Minister of transportation under the Liberal government of 2013, the Kamloops-South Thompson MLA, also founder of Kamloops-based local government software firm iCompass Technology, garnered support from many of his fellow caucus members last time around.

But as a former cabinet minister under Clark, Stone would give the NDP some easy targets to shoot at.

The Old Guard 

Kevin Falcon: 10 to 1

The former finance minister would probably enjoy widespread support in the party. But again, the NDP would essentially have free range to fire on Falcon for past missteps. Now doesn’t seem like the right time to backtrack.

The Rising Stars

Jas Johal: 4 to 1

The Richmond-Queensborough MLA had been one of the few promising figures in the party since he joined the legislature in 2017. Johal seemed to take a fairly progressive stance on many issues, even sponsoring a private member’s bill aimed at prohibiting the sale of single-use beverage pods.  

Although the former Global News reporter was one of the higher-profile Liberal MLAs over the past several years, he just lost his seat. Before that result, we would have named him the presumptive favourite.

So while there are still undoubtedly some party members who’ll be happy to support Johal, winning a leadership contest after losing an election isn’t a path well travelled, to say the least.

Ellis Ross: 7 to 1

The former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, who has represented the district of Skeena since 2017, won the seat back last week.

Ross’s work stickhandling the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and natural resources developers—he signed a $50-million agreement with Kitimat LNG to build a liquefied natural gas plant on one of the Haisla reserves in 2006—would come in handy if he were enlisted to help repair a fractured party. If elected leader, Ross would be the first Indigenous person to head a major political party in B.C.

It also probably doesn’t hurt to be phonetically linked to Tracee Ellis Ross?

The Outsiders

Bridgitte Anderson: 15 to 1

The president and CEO of the Vancouver Board of Trade has never run for office but did serve as former premier Gordon Campbell’s press secretary. Though Anderson wields considerable power in her current role and is quite media savvy, she might prefer to remain nonpartisan at the moment.

You’d think she’d be at the top of the Liberal Party’s wish list if she did have any interest in running, though.

Lisa Dominato: 15 to 1

A member of the right-leaning NPA, the Vancouver councillor has a deep knowledge of and some success navigating files like education and health care, especially when it comes to mental health.

Of course, Dominato could just as easily declare herself a candidate for mayor in Vancouver’s next civic election. Frankly, it might be a less daunting challenge.