BC Liberal MLA Mike de Jong tosses his hat into party's leadership race

WATCH: Coverage of Mike de Jong on Globalnews.ca

A former B.C. finance minister is joining the race to lead the BC Liberal Party.

Veteran MLA Mike de Jong is the latest entrant, joining a field of five confirmed candidates as of Monday night.

WATCH: Mike de Jong joins CKNW’s Jon McComb

Former Finance Minister Mike de Jong announces bid for BC Libe…

Former Finance Minister Mike de Jong joins CKNW's Jon McComb to discuss his run for the leadership of the BC Liberal party.

Posted by News Talk 980 CKNW on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Despite the loss in the last election, de Jong said he’s proud of the formerly-governing party’s record.

But he also realizes that there’s work ahead, like “re-earn the right and the trust of British Columbians because it’s not going to happen automatically and that’s the task of this party.”

LISTEN: Mike de Jong joins the BC Liberal leadership race

BC Liberal leadership race: candidates, dates and spending details

Speaking with CKNW’s Jon McComb, de Jong distanced himself from Christy Clark’s so-called “clone speech” in June, which borrowed liberally from the NDP’s election platform.

“Finance ministers write budgets, and premiers write throne speeches. I don’t think there’s any question that for many people within the BC Liberal Party at least it was difficult to explain certain aspects,” he said.

However, de Jong admitted the party does need to do more when it comes to helping the province’s most vulnerable, stating that he had actually argued unsuccessfully against more social spending this year.

“It’s an argument I lost in advance of the preparation of the last budget. It was difficult to reconcile our argument and the fact the British Columbia was doing so well — and we were — with the fact that the general rate of welfare hadn’t increased in a number of years,” de Jong said.

WATCH: BC Liberal Leadership candidates throw their names into the race

As for whether de Jong would commit to Todd Stone’s pledge not to accept any taxpayer subsidies under the NDP’s corporate and union donation ban?

“It is not my intention to lead a BC Liberal Party that is relying on taxpayers’ subsidy,” he said.

“Part of the re-energizization, the rebuilding of the BC Liberal Party, I believe, is to ensure we are in a position where we are self-sufficient and relaying upon our grassroots donors to sustain our operation and prepare us for the next election.  And that’s what I’m working towards.”

He said he’s been loyal to the party for 24 years, making him a “standout” among the other contenders.

So far, he’s up against existing candidates Andrew Wilkinson, Mike Bernier, Lucy Sager, Sam Sullivan and Dianne Watts who’ve confirmed their candidacy.

MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson Todd Stone and MLA Vancouver-Langara Michael Lee are also suspected to enter the race.

The BC Liberals will vote for their new leader online and via telephone from Feb. 1 to 3.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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