BC Liberal leadership candidates square off in their final debate, Jan. 23, 2018. (Facebook)

PREVIEW: New BC Liberal leaders to be chosen tonight

Six candidates square off to replace Christy Clark, take on John Horgan

B.C. Liberal party members finish voting at 5 p.m. on Saturday, with the first results of their selections expected by 6 p.m. About 60,000 party members are eligible to vote on a ranked ballot with six candidates.

Here’s what you need to know about each candidate:

Mike de Jong has been an Abbotsford-area MLA since replacing Social Credit leader Grace McCarthy in a 1994 by-election. He served in most major cabinet roles, including five years as finance minister before the B.C. Liberal government’s defeat last year.

De Jong’s policy suggestions include expanding Mandarin language education in B.C. schools, moving the B.C. forest ministry headquarters from Victoria to Prince George, and offering parents full-day Kindergarten for four-year-olds.

Michael Lee is a rookie MLA elected to represent Vancouver-Langara in 2017, and a former membership director for the B.C. Liberal Party. His policy book includes a pledge to make B.C. “gasoline free” by 2050, increase electric car incentives and promote car sharing. He wants to increase funding for school and community libraries and also increase independent and home-schooling options for parents.

Todd Stone is the second-term MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson and former transportation minister. He has proposed dedicating B.C. tax revenues from the sale of legalized marijuana to deal with addiction and overdoses of hard drugs. In health care, he proposes to build more government-funded primary care centres in B.C. communities and increase training spaces for nurse practitioners.

Sam Sullivan is a former Vancouver mayor serving his second term as MLA for Vancouver-False Creek. Sullivan has shaken up debates with his suggestion that the B.C. Liberal Party should bring back the Harmonized Sales Tax in a modified form to make it more popular. He is also proposing selling B.C. government liquor stores to their employees, similar to the way B.C. highway maintenance was privatized.

Dianne Watts is the former Surrey mayor who resigned as Conservative MP for Surrey-White Rock to enter the B.C. Liberal leadership contest as the only candidate without a seat in the legislature. Her proposals include reinstating year-round seniors’ discounts on B.C. Ferries, increase funding for community-based social and supportive housing and stop the provincial government from taking a dividend from B.C. Hydro and other Crown corporations.

Andrew Wilkinson is a former party president in his second term as MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena. He has emphasized his opposition to the NDP-B.C. Green effort to convert to a proportional representation voting system, which he says will weaken rural B.C.

Wilkinson wants to abolish small business income on family businesses, increase mental health and addictions services and keep government stores out of marijuana retail sales.

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