Conservative MP and former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has thrown her hat in the ring in the race for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party.
“All of us have one common goal. And that is to bring our province back from a coalition government that is not only unstable, but is determined to raise taxes, gut our natural resource sector, and drive jobs and investment out of this province,” said Watts as she made the announcement Sunday afternoon at a Guildford hotel.
Watts said she will step down as MP and a member of Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s shadow cabinet to focus “100 per cent” of her energy on the race.
“I’m committed, and I’m all in.”
WATCH: BC Liberal leadership candidates throw their names into the race
In a wide ranging speech, Watts took some early shots at the NDP government, whom she accused of raising taxes and scaring off business.
She also acknowledged the failure of the BC Liberals to connect with British Columbians during the last election, making a direct pitch to urban residents and transit users.
“Cities and towns are the economic engine of British Columbia, and in order to succeed as a province, they need to be at the table as full partners,” Watts said.
“And the rapid transit lines, they need to be built right now.”
Watts also pledged to create a “comprehensive framework” to address the opioid crisis that includes support for parents, recovery and treatment options and more support for first responders, and to keep money raised from legal marijuana in the communities where it is sold.
Watts, who served three terms as mayor, currently sits as the Conservative MP for South Surrey-White Rock where she edged out Liberal Judy Higginbotham by just under 1,500 votes in the 2015 federal election.
Watts is well known in Surrey, where the Liberals lost three key ridings in this year’s provincial election.
She also served a term as chair of the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, which could help her pitch herself as a more transit-friendly candidate.
Her announcement comes amid a flurry of official and anticipated declarations among would-be Liberal leaders.
On Thursday, former Vancouver mayor and Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan became officially entered the race, while Vancouver-Quilchenna MLA Andrew Wilkinson is expected to formally announce his bid on Monday.
Terrace businesswoman Lucy Sager has also declared her intention to run.
Former Transportation Minister Todd Stone published a video Sunday to say he is mulling a bid.
Stone also staked out the first policy position among potential candidates, pledging not to accept the NDP’s per-vote taxpayer subsidy proposed as a part of its campaign finance reform.
Former Education Minister Mike Bernier, former Finance Minister Mike de Jong and new MLA Micheal Lee are also being floated as potential contenders.
The BC Liberals will vote for their new leader by online and telephone vote from Feb. 1-3.