Candidates looking to become the next leader of the BC Liberals squared off in a debate in Vancouver Tuesday night.
Three veteran cabinet ministers — Mike de Jong, Andrew Wilkinson and Todd Stone — faced backbenchers Sam Sullivan and Michael Lee, as well as Dianne Watts, who was the mayor of Surrey before winning a seat for the Conservatives in the House of Commons.
In his opening remarks, Wilkinson vowed to get under the skin of Premier John Horgan.
Lee referred to himself as a “fresh face” who could broaden the party’s appeal.
WATCH: Michael Lee presses Mike de Jong about digital habits
Lee was prompted to say “don’t patronize me” in response to criticism from Wilkinson over his lack of experience.
De Jong, meanwhile, took pride in his years of political experience.
When asked if he represented the party’s past rather than its future, de Jong replied, “I was watching television today, I saw Roger Federer and Tom Brady doing pretty well.”
WATCH: ‘I saw Roger Federer and Tom Brady doing pretty well’: de Jong
Watts was forced to defend her platform and commitment to the party with questions from de Jong, Wilkinson and Stone.
She described herself as a lifelong “free enterpriser” who will work to ensure the NDP falls whether she becomes the party’s leader or not.
She said the party lost 10 seats in Metro Vancouver during last year’s election.
WATCH: Preview of tonight’s BC Liberal Leadership debate
“We should not have lost those seats in the Lower Mainland and we did,” she said.
Sullivan said one way to get those seats back is to reach out to younger voters.
“Every successful army always fights the last battle,” he said, adding the party moved to the right in the 2013 election, which led some traditional Liberal voters to defect to the Greens in last year’s election.
“I like to describe the Greens as your old hippies and young techies,” he said.
“We’re never going to get the old hippies voting for us, so get that straight. Where we have a lot of room to grow is young techies.
‘We’re never getting the old hippies voting for us’: Sullivan
“They’re urban people and they care about quality of life.”
Lee, meanwhile, said the party’s focus during the last election was too narrow.
Candidates voiced opposition to proportional representation.
Stone referred to an upcoming referendum on electoral reform as “perhaps the single greatest attack on our democracy.”
De Jong added, “I love Vancouver but no single town should have the right to tell the rest of British Columbia how they’re going to vote.”
Stone went after Wilkinson, accusing him of sticking his head in the sand on the issue of housing affordability.
Wilkinson fired back, saying Stone was “trying to copy Justin Trudeau by spending us into oblivion.”
‘I’ve been in the trenches for a long time doing this work’: Wilkinson
This was the final debate before party members vote next week on who will replace former party leader Christy Clark.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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