Two more in Liberal race

The race to replace Christy Clark as leader of British Columbia's Liberal party is getting crowded, with as many as eight candidates including four former cabinet ministers expected to be in the contest by the end of the week.

Former Liberal cabinet ministers Andrew Wilkinson and Mike Bernier announced their candidacies Monday, with longtime Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong and past transportation minister Todd Stone indicating they are seriously considering leadership bids.

Conservative MP Dianne Watts, well known in the Metro Vancouver area as a former mayor of Surrey, entered the race Sunday and is seen as a strong candidate despite never being elected to the legislature.

Backbencher Sam Sullivan, a former Vancouver mayor, entered the race last week and recently elected legislature member Michael Lee of Vancouver-Langara and Terrace businesswoman Lucy Sager are also seen as a potential candidates.

The absence of a clear front-runner could get messy for the Liberals, says David Black, a political communications expert at Royal Roads University in Victoria.

"There's no heir apparent," Black said. "When you lack the heir apparent, you open the door to a lot of fractiousness."

He said the Liberals need a leader who appeals to urban voters without cutting the party's roots in rural areas. In May's election, the Liberals lost votes and seats in Metro Vancouver and won only one of 14 ridings on Vancouver Island.

The party also needs to find someone to bridge its economic prudence with new social policies, Black said.

"It's a hard thing to engineer those two paths politically, but it's trying to find the sweet spot."

The party will elect its new leader in February.

Wilkinson, a lawyer, doctor and former party president, said the Liberals needs a leader who knows the ropes of B.C. politics without requiring a learning curve.

"We have to select a leader who is ready on Day 1," Wilkinson said. "We've got to have someone who can take on (Premier) John Horgan and the NDP in that very first question period and someone who can take on the role of running an election at any time."

Bernier said he wants to lead a Liberal party that helps those who are struggling.

The former mayor of Dawson Creek said his proudest moment as education minister was including sexual orientation in anti-bullying rules. He said his daughter is gay and he wished he could have helped her more to prevent her getting bullied in school.

Bernier said voters have told him the Liberals stopped listening.

"The message I've heard has actually been kind of harsh," he said.

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