Wilkinson new leader

UPDATE: 7:20 p.m.

Despite a strong start from Dianne Watts, Andrew Wilkinson, former advanced-education minister, has been named the BC Liberals new leader. 

Wilkinson squeaked out a win over Watts on the fifth and final ballot, taking 53 per cent of the vote. 

Wilkinson is the MLA for the Vancouver-Quilchena riding, and was first elected to the legislature in 2013.

UPDATE: 6:40 p.m.

Little has changed following the second ballot in the BC Liberals leadership vote.

Dianne Watts remains the front runner of the remaining candidates, but still falls far short of the 50 per cent needed, with just 24.93 per cent. 

Mike de Jong has been eliminated, after garnering just 16.51 per cent in the second ballot. 

UPDATE: 6:05 p.m.

Dianne Watts, former Member of Parliament and mayor of Surrey, took the top spot in the first ballot results for the new BC Liberal leader, but she hasn't been crowned leader yet.

Watts garnered 24.54 per cent of the voting points in the first ballot, but to be named leader, she must have over 50 per cent.

Sam Sullivan, former mayor of Vancouver, garnered just 1.82 per cent, the lowest in the pool of six.

For the second count, Sullivan is eliminated from the picks, and voters who chose Sullivan will have their second choice count for one of the other five.

This process will continue until one of the candidates gets more than 50 per cent of the voting points.

Michael Lee was a close second to Watts, grabbing 22.03 per cent, followed by Andrew Wilkinson in third, Todd Stone in fourth and Mike de Jong in fifth. 

Not every BC Liberal member's votes are equal. Each riding in B.C. is worth 100 points, regardless of the number of votes cast there. 

UPDATE: 5 p.m.

The last of the votes for a new BC Liberal leader have been submitted. 

Voting for the new leader of the party closed at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Six Liberal MLAs have been vying for the position for the past several months, after former Premier Christy Clark stepped down from the position and gave up her seat when the NDP formed government in June.

Much of B.C.'s Interior is represented by BC Liberals, including Norm Letnick for Kelowna-Lake Country, Steve Thomson for Kelowna-Mission, Dan Ashton for Penticton, and Eric Foster for Vernon-Monashee.

The leadership convention, taking place at Vancouver's Sheraton Wall Centre, begins at 5 p.m. Saturday, and the new leader is expected to be announced between 5:30 and 6:30.  

Castanet will have live coverage of the convention on the front page of the website, as well as in this story. 

ORIGINAL: 7:15 a.m.

A sometimes bruising leadership campaign ends today in Vancouver for British Columbia's Liberals as they elect a new leader who will be tasked with returning the party to power after a 16 year term in office that ended last summer.

An estimated 60,000 party members were eligible to vote online and by phone to replace Christy Clark, who resigned after the New Democrats formed a minority government with the support of the Green party following a non-confidence vote that brought down the Liberals.

The field of six candidates includes three veterans with deep cabinet experience, two former big city mayors and a first-time member of the legislature from Metro Vancouver.

Mike de Jong, Andrew Wilkinson and Todd Stone were longtime members of Clark's cabinet.

Sam Sullivan, a former Vancouver mayor, was appointed to cabinet in the dying days of Clark's government last summer.

The field also includes Michael Lee, a Vancouver lawyer who was elected to the legislature last spring, and Dianne Watts, a former Conservative MP and one-time mayor of Surrey.

The B.C. Liberal Party is not affiliated with the federal Liberals. It describes itself as "a made-in-B.C. free enterprise coalition" that includes members of the federal Conservative and Liberal parties.

Getting the party back to power after a lacklustre election campaign last May has been a focus of the leadership campaign.

There has been finger-pointing in debates over who was to blame for the Liberal downfall, despite B.C. boasting the strongest economy in Canada.

Some candidates criticized the party's old guard for failing to address transportation, housing and social policy issues that led to losses in seat-rich Metro Vancouver, once a Liberal stronghold.

De Jong, the former finance minister, set himself apart from the field, defending the Liberal record as he took heat for his tight-fisted control of the province's purse strings that meant programs aimed at easing financial pressures for people never made it off the drawing board.

Stone, his former cabinet colleague, acknowledged the Liberals were strong economic managers as he argued the party could have done a better job of sharing the wealth, including raising welfare rates.

– with files from The Canadian Press

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