Former transportation minister Todd Stone puts winter tires on his pickup, October 2013. (Black Press files)

Todd Stone hits the road for leadership

B.C. Liberal hopeful emphasizes youth, technology

Four years as transportation minister have given Todd Stone a higher profile than some B.C. Liberal leadership candidates, which is a mixed blessing.

Stone is the law-and-order family man who hiked fines for distracted driving and passing a stopped school bus. He’s also the former software company CEO who promised to deliver smartphone ride sharing to the clogged streets of big cities. He didn’t deliver on that, or a promised review of what he admitted were unfair Lower Mainland bridge tolls, an issue that cost his party crucial support in Metro Vancouver in the spring election.

The second-term MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson officially becomes the eighth candidate to succeed Christy Clark today (Tuesday) with a road show starting in Surrey, home turf of rival candidate Dianne Watts. From there he goes to Victoria for a technology announcement at llamaZOO, a 3D virtual reality company, and then flies to his home town of Kamloops for a rally.

In an interview with Black Press, Stone listed a notable group of supporters, with a promise of more to come. Sitting MLAs Greg Kyllo (Shuswap), Peter Milobar (Kamloops North Thompson), Coralee Oakes (Cariboo North) and Jane Thornthwaite (North Vancouver-Seymour) are supporting him.

In a contest where party members vote online in early February, Stone adds former MLAs Barry Penner, Don McRae, Terry Lake, Claude Richmond, Kevin Krueger, Doug Horne, Sheila Orr and Susan Brice to his base, as well as Bud Smith, the former Social Credit cabinet minister and leadership candidate who has signed on as his senior advisor.

Stone’s campaign co-chairs are Peter Fassbender, the former education and Translink minister who lost a rematch in Surrey-Fleetwood with the NDP’s Jagrup Brar, and Brittney Kerr, a former Vision Vancouver board member and “millennial” federal Liberal who spent a year on the B.C. desk in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.

Stone describes Fassbender as a baby boomer with roots in the federal Conservative Party, a key for the B.C. Liberals as they work to hold their Liberal-Conservative coalition together.

The winner, says the media-savvy Stone, will be the candidate who best articulates a vision for the province, and also has the “intangibles” to take on the NDP and Green Party and is “relatable in Williams Lake and Yaletown and every point in between.”

He’s diplomatic about his rivals, and not shy about describing what he sees as his advantages.

“The intangibles that I bring to the table are that I’ll be the youngest candidate in the race at 45,” Stone said. “I’ve got three kids that are still in the K-12 education system. I’m a tech CEO, and I’m from Kamloops, which is a microcosm of the entire province. It has a lot of the urban challenges of transit and affordable housing, and amongst the highest rates of opioid addiction and deaths from opioids outside of the Lower Mainland.

“But it’s very much in a rural setting, where the resource economy is still very important. It’s a city that’s working its way through that transition from being solely dependent on resource extraction to the knowledge economy, and Kamloopsians recognize that the two actually go hand in hand.”

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