A retired South Okanagan MLA and former Speaker of the B.C. Legislature is tossing his two cents into the B.C. Liberal leadership race, with an endorsement of Mike de Jong.
Bill Barisoff, born in Oliver, represented the Okanagan-Boundary, Penticton-Okanagan Valley and Penticton ridings between 1996 and 2013, before retiring.
Barisoff announced Monday morning he would be endorsing de Jong for B.C. Liberal leadership, which is set for a vote in early February.
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“He’s the kind of leader we need — and he is ready to lead on his first day on the job. He doesn’t need any time to get ready — he’s ready now,” Barisoff said in a news release. “I worked with Mike and I know he can take the fight to John Horgan and the NDP, and he can begin the critical work needed to renew the party and get ready to win the next election.”
Current Penticton MLA Dan Ashton declined to name his preference for the leadership vote during a year-end interview with the Western News last month.
Related: 2017 roundup: Ashton talks election and Indigenous relations
Barisoff served as Minister of Provincial Revenue and Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection before being named Speaker in 2005. He is the second-longest serving Speaker in B.C. history.
“I sat with Mike in Opposition and I sat with him in government. There’s no one better to make full use of the Legislature to keep the NDP’s feet to the fire and to make sure we renew the B.C. Liberal Party,” he said.
“Mike not only knows how to deliver balanced budgets, he has a vision about investing more in education, in healthcare and in affordability to make sure people feel the benefits of the strong economy we build.”
In the news release, de Jong staff pointed to a list of 15 “Team de Jong members,” who have come out in favour of the candidate, including former cabinet minister Mike Bernier, former Kelowna-Lake Country MLA and former Okanagan Centre member of Parliament Al Horning.
B.C. Liberals will be holding a convention to vote on the new leader, with the winner set to be announced on Feb. 3.