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Kevin Falcon wins B.C. Liberal leadership race

The former cabinet minister won on the fifth ballot.
Kevin Falcon was an MLA for almost 12 years, until 2013.

Kevin Falcon this evening won the B.C. Liberal leadership race on the fifth ballot, over six competitors.

The format to determine the winner involved each of B.C.'s 87 ridings getting 100 points, which were distributed according to the share of the vote by each constituency's members' votes. Voters were asked to rank candidates in order of preference.

Falcon received 4,121 points on the first ballot, or 47.37%. The announced total, however, was that Falcon received 47% of the vote.

Stan Sipos finished last on the first ballot, with 104.6 points, or 1.2%, and was therefore forced to drop out of the race. The second choices on the ballots that ranked him first were then counted.

The results for the others on the first ballot included:
• Ellis Ross with 26.7%;
• Michael Lee with 10.3%;
• Val Litwin with 5.8%;
• Gavin Dew with 5.4%; and
• Renee Merrifield with 3.2%.

The second ballot results were:
• Kevin Falcon with 47.6%;
• Ellis Ross with 27.1%;
• Michael Lee with 10.5%;
• Val Litwin with 5.95%;
• Gavin Dew with 5.5%; and
• Renee Merrifield with 3.3%.

The third ballot results were:
• Kevin Falcon with 48.3%;
• Ellis Ross with 28.66%;
• Michael Lee with 10.8%;
• Val Litwin with 6.16%; and
• Gavin Dew with 6.01%.

The fourth ballot results were:
• Kevin Falcon with 49.63%;
• Ellis Ross with 31.2%;
• Michael Lee with 11.94%; and
• Val Litwin with 7.21%.

Litwin, who raised controversy in the past week by saying that he would not be part of a Kevin Falcon-led party, then dropped off the ballot. 

The point share after the fifth ballot was:
• Kevin Falcon with 52.19%;
• Ellis Ross with 33.65%; and
• Michael Lee with 14.14%.

The former MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale was the most experienced candidate in the race, having served almost 12 years in the legislature, up until April 2013.

Falcon held various posts in former Premier Gordon Campbell's government, including about five and a half years as minister of transportation. Under former Premier Christy Clark, Falcon served as minister of finance and deputy premier.

Falcon's campaign was the only one in the race that did not take issue with alleged irregularities in thousands of new memberships.

Party member Vikram Bajwa brought a petition to BC Supreme Court seeking an order to force the party to delay releasing tonight's results, but Justice Heather MacNaughton today ruled that he had not sufficiently proved his case.

Katy Merrifield, who was communications director to Clark, told BIV following the vote that her interpretation of MacNaughton's ruling was that it was an 11th-hour challenge that amounted to "sour grapes."

Merrifield said she was neutral during the campaign, but in the end decided to support Falcon. 

She hailed Falcon's 47.37% support level on the first ballot as a strong indication that the party was behind him. The fact that he needed four more ballots to crawl over the 50% threshold was simply a matter of the way preferential-ballot systems play out, she said, as the system necessarily means that those who drop off the ballot have few votes to redistribute. 

"The last leadership race we saw went to five ballots," said Merrifield, who managed former Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson's campaign in 2018. "It's indicative of the ballot system itself."

She said Falcon's move to the private sector after he left politics makes him a better candidate, with more depth.

Political observer and NDP insider Bill Tieleman told BIV that Falcon is yesterday's man. 

"It strikes me that a leader of the BC Liberal Party who was first elected in 2001 – 21 years ago – and talking about renewal, and talking about the bad old NDP, is out of touch," Tieleman said.

Tieleman then praised Falcon as a shrewd political operative who could be a formidible opponent.

"I don't think the NDP should be popping any Champagne corks, or feeling overconfident at all, because Kevin Falcon is a good campaigner," Tieleman said. "He's learned from his period in the private sector – clearly getting out of politics for a while I think is a good idea for any politician in any party – and he's not to be underestimated."

Jordan Bateman, who is president of the Langley East riding association, shrugged off Tieleman's assertions that Falcon is yesterday's man. 

He said that Falcon is not yet 60 years old, unlike some power brokers in the NDP government, such as Premier John Horgan and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

Bateman worked on Falcon's 2011 leadership campaign, when Falcon lost to Clark. 

"He's a better candidate today than he was 11 years ago, and I think that's why the NDP are so terrified," Bateman told BIV.

"He's smarter. He understands private-sector issues better, and understands better the impact of government, good and bad. He certainly has a much deeper understanding of the housing and affordability files, which I think are absolutely key to rebuilding the party in urban areas. So he's going to be a very strong candidate." •