BC Liberals open leadership race, name Geoff Plant as chief returning officer (update)

Geoff Plant
Photo: Twitter


On Wednesday, B.C. Liberal Party President Sharon White announced that the party executive has agreed to adjust the dates of the leadership vote to Thursday, February 1Friday, February 2 and Saturday, February 3.

She added: “Our Leadership Convention, focused on the announcement of the voting results and the new leader, will take place on Saturday, February 3.”


THE BC Liberals announced on Tuesday they have officially launched their leadership race.

The party executive released the  leadership rules that it said reflect widely supported elements of the 2011 leadership process, including a vote for every member of the party, equal weight given to every riding in the province, and a preferential ballot that will enable members to rank their choices for leader.

Voting will take place online, with a telephone option, on Friday, February 2Saturday, February 3, and Sunday, February 4, 2018. The party is currently in the process of selecting a vendor to provide secure voting services, and an auditor to provide impartial oversight.

The party also announced that former BC attorney general Geoff Plant will serve as chief returning officer, overseeing voting arrangements and compliance with the rules.

“The Leadership 2018 rules are rooted in best practices from our previous leadership race and other contests across Canada, and informed by feedback from our grassroots members throughout the province,” said party president Sharon White. “We’re all looking forward to a vibrant contest of ideas that will engage British Columbians and select a leader ready to stand up for BC and decisively win the next election. And there is nobody better to oversee this process with the utmost fairness and transparency than Geoff Plant.”

Recognizing concerns raised during the 2011 leadership race, the party and its vendor will establish a protocol to verify voter credentials that does not rely on personal information numbers (PINs) distributed by mail.

To ensure party members and British Columbians have every opportunity to get to know the candidates and their platforms, each declared leadership contestant will be required to participate in party-sponsored debates or forums in Vancouver, Surrey, Prince George, Nanaimo, and the Thompson-Okanagan region, and one organized by the BC Liberal Indigenous Network. The party will hold a Leadership Convention for the announcement of the new leader on Sunday, February 4.

In order to give party members and all British Columbians confidence in the security and integrity of the leadership process, the party’s rules have been modernized to prohibit payment for memberships by cash or prepaid credit card. The party will institute a rigorous monitoring system to flag invalid membership applications.

The deadline to join the party or renew one’s membership in order to vote, as well the deadline for prospective candidates to enter the race, is Friday, December 29. The cost of membership remains $10 for four years, or $5 for those aged 14-25.

The full leadership rules, and instructions for prospective contestants, are available at www.bcliberals.com.


Backgrounder: Leadership vote rules and procedures


Rules process

The Leadership Rules were drafted by a rules committee consisting of the party’s president, vice-president, membership chair, constitutional advisor, and counsel, based on the principles agreed to by the party executive. The framework was informed by a thorough review of the 2011 leadership process and comparable races throughout Canada in recent years, as well as feedback solicited from the presidents of all 87 local riding associations.

The party executive includes table officers elected at the party’s biennial convention, regional directors elected every two years by party members, and representatives of the party’s Indigenous, women’s, and youth organizations. All members of the executive who participated in the rules process have pledged to remain neutral in the leadership contest.


Entry fees and compliance

To cover the costs of administering the leadership process, and ensure the party is on a strong financial foundation for the new leader, prospective leadership contestants must submit an exploratory entry fee of $10,000. Those wishing to remain in the race will submit an additional candidacy fee of $15,000 in advance of the first leadership debate (or in order to approved for candidacy, if entering after the first debate), followed by a final candidacy fee of $25,000.

In addition, each contestant will provide a refundable compliance deposit of $10,000, which must be replenished following any deduction for a violation of the rules.

The total entry cost of $50,000 compares to $30,000 for the 2017 Alberta PC leadership race, $75,000 for the 2015 Ontario PC leadership race, and $50,000 for the 2013 Ontario Liberal Party contest.


Spending cap

Each contestant will be prohibited from spending more than $600,000, not including entry fees or administrative fees payable to the party. This compares to $450,000 in the 2011 leadership, while eliminating the previous exception for personal expenses. The higher cap also reflects inflation, population growth, and a race that is approximately six weeks longer than in 2011.


Balloting method

As required by the party constitution, each member will have one vote, with each electoral district given an equal weight of 100 points in the balloting.

Each member may vote by a preferential ballot on which the voter indicates their preference for leadership contestants, ranking as many or as few as they wish.

The candidate who receives the fewest points on each count will be eliminated, and their ballots distributed among the remaining candidates according to the next preferences indicated.

The first leadership contestant to receive more than 50% of the points allocated on any province-wide count will be selected as the next leader.