Liberal leadership candidate, former transportation minister and current Kamloops-area MLA Todd Stone speaking in Kelowna Friday.—Alistair Waters/Capital News

Liberal leadership hopeful Todd Stone releases his “bold vision”

Former transportation minister outlines what he would do as premier

B.C. Liberal leadership candidate Todd Stone has released what he calls his “bold vision” to move British Columbia forward.

Stone, in Kelowna for the fourth Liberal leadership debate on Saturday, released the outline of his ideas on a range of issues Friday, saying the province needs a “strong, dynamic leader with clear ideas and a bold vision to inspire British Columbians.”

At 45, the former transportation minister and Kamloops-area MLA is the youngest candidate running for the party leadership and the only one from outside the Lower Mainland.

He said his plan outlines his ideas and priorities as leader—from embracing and growing the B.C. tech sector and improving childcare, to improvements to transportation, protecting the environment and tackling the growing issue of housing affordability.

And he said one of the first tasks for whoever becomes the new Liberal leader will be trying to defeat the NDP government’s planned referendum on proportional representation, a move he contends will remove the voice of rural B.C. when it comes to electing future provincial governments.

In what sounded more like an provincial election announcement than a party leadership bid, Stone said if he were premier, he would reduce the provincial sales tax by one per cent, roll back all NDP tax hikes and freeze provincial income tax rates.

“For me, keeping tax rates low, balancing budgets, growing jobs and keeping our economy strong are core values at the centre of all I would do as leader,” he said.

“At the same time, we must ensure we are using our strong economy to invest in priorities that will make life better for families and communities.”

Related story: Former Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray endorses Liberal candidate

Touching on a local issue, he said he wants to see “politics taken out of byelections,” by mandating byelections be called within 45 days of seats being vacated.

Currently, B.C.’s premier has six months to call a byelection, something Premier John Horgan appears to be taking advantage of in Kelowna West. That riding was represented by former Liberal premier Christy Clark before she quit politics Aug. 5. Despite saying he would move quickly to call a byelection, Horgan has yet to announce a date. He has until February to set the date.

Ironically, Horgan will be in the riding this weekend to attend the nomination meeting for his party’s candidate, Shelley Cook. Cook will run against the riding’s former MLA, Ben Stewart, who stepped down in 2013 after winning the riding for a second time, in order to let Clark run in a byelection. The B.C. Green Party will name their candidate in Kelowna West on Monday.

Related story: De Jong floats idea of more money for kids’ educations

In May the Liberals won the election but fell one seat short of a majority. As a result, the NDP, with the assistance of the B.C. Green Party, joined forces in the legislature to oust Clark’s government and take power.

Stone said his party has to win back the support of British Columbians and one way to do so is to get out a hear what the public has say. He is proposing regular town hall meetings that he would attend as leader across the province, to talk to British Columbians about their concerns.

Stone’s appearance in Kelowna included a protester, who crashed his announcement, upset about the transportation ministry taking land he and his wife own on Highway 33 seven years ago when it widened the road.

Eduard and Dayleen Van Ryswyk have accused the province of taking a strip of land that impacted access to their property and their business and Stone did not help them. The couple claim the land was not properly expropriated and they did not receive any compensation. The province simply took it.

Stone said he was aware of the case, but as minister was not directly involved.

The case is currently before the courts.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.



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