The leadership race for the BC Liberal Party has seven current candidates. The most recent to join the race was the one who was most recently in Prince George.
Todd Stone passed through the region drumming up support among party members and potential party members, playing catchup on his previously declared rivals Mike de Jong, Michael Lee, Lucy Sager, Sam Sullivan, Dianne Watts and Andrew Wilkinson (alphabetically).
"We wanted to make sure we could do it right," he told The Citizen in an exclusive interview, only days after throwing his hat in the ring.
"We had a lot of conversations as a family to understand what it would mean to be the leader. Then I took another couple of weeks to talk to the membership in all corners of the province. I did a lot of consultation. I feel you have to be in it to win, if you take a step like this, so those preparation pieces had to be in place for me."
Being married for the past 17 years with three school-aged children, emulating a work-life balance is part of why he wants to be leader of the party and ultimately premier of the province.
He also wants to get the party back on a track of spreading the wealth generated by economic success.
"As a party we were widely regarded as being good economic managers, but for some British Columbians, we were perceived to be not in their corner to a great enough extent. Some British Columbians were not feeling the benefits of the strong economy," he said.
His platform stood on wanting to turn the benefits of surplus budgets more quickly into the grassroots, street-level needs of the province.
He also wanted to uplift the economy by stimulating the tech economy, the knowledge-based economy. Beefing up the research, development and technology sectors was good for the whole province, he said, because it needed no specific address. The north and the east could thrive with it as well as the Lower Mainland. Also, those knowledge-based professions were the ones that solve problems for the traditional sectors, like better tools, transportation, communication and labour developments for mills and mines and all walks of natural resource life.
"It takes a purposeful leader to go out there and find great candidates, and I look around and don't see enough young people, not enough women, not enough people who reflect the breadth of British Columbia's people. I want to be inviting great candidates in to our table, and open the door of our coalition wider than its ever been," Stone said.
Stone has been an active Liberal Party advocate and organizer dating back to when Gordon Wilson was the leader, and helped the transition from Wilson to eventual premier Gordon Campbell. He is from Kamloops, where he has been the MLA since 2013, quickly rising to cabinet minister with portfolios like Transportation and Infrastructure and Emergency Management. More than a dozen MLAs and former MLAs have already expressed their endorsement for his leadership bid.