Marc Dalton said he could get behind three or four of the candidates to replace former Premier Christy Clark. (THE NEWS files)

Dalton sees several strong options for leader

B.C. Liberals a month away from choosing a new face of the party

As the B.C. Liberal Party leadership race enters its final month, former Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton said he has not yet decided who to support.

“It’s really tough, because there is such a strong slate,” said Dalton.

The new leader will presumably lead the Liberals back into an election campaign, and Dalton plans to be part of it.

Liberals watched a flurry of social media activity recently, as the party’s deadline to sign up new members who would be eligible to vote in the leadership election passed on Friday night. Early estimates say the membership doubled to approximately 62,000.

Unlike his Liberal colleague Doug Bing, the former MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows who has endorsed Andrew Wilkinson’s leadership bid, Dalton is not yet promoting anyone as leader. Pending conversations with his local riding board, he doesn’t intend to.

Dalton said there are three or four strong candidates.

He likes Wilkinson, the former Advanced Education minister, for his experience outside of government.

He said Todd Stone, the former Transportation Minister, is young (45) for an experienced MLA, and may bring votes from a younger demographic. The Kamloops MLA also has strong support in the Interior, as well as the Lower Mainland.

Some voters will hold it against Mike de Jong that he has “been around forever,” but Dalton said Christy Clark’s former finance minister is still fast on his feet, and a solid candidate.

Michael Lee, a business lawyer and parliamentary secretary for housing affordability, has been “running an excellent campaign” for leadership, said Dalton.

The other two candidates are former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and Conservative MP Dianne Watts – the former mayor of Surrey.

Fortunately for Dalton, he can rank all of the candidates according to how fit he considers each to be leader, in a preferential balloting system that will begin on Feb. 1, and closes Feb. 3. The night of Feb. 3, a new BC Liberal leader will be announced.

Dalton hopes he will be running again.

“I’ve still got my signs from the last campaign,” he said, and noted that he was “not blown out of the water.”

He was beaten by the NDP’s Bob D’Eith who got 10,988 votes to Dalton’s 10,663.

Dalton said he is back to his pre-politics job as an educator. He is an on-call teacher in School District 42, and will go back to full-time status next school year.

“It’s been nice to have a breather,” he said of the break from politics.

“I hope to get back at it, in the not-to-distant future.”

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