Even as Colin Hansen left the sidelines of the B.C. Liberal leadership fight to endorse Kevin Falcon, B.C.'s Finance Minister suggested the two candidates in the race with little or no caucus and cabinet support could end up winning.
"Absolutely," said Mr. Hansen, when the question was put to him during a joint appearance with a beaming Mr. Falcon.
"What I hear from the caucus and from the party membership is regardless of who wins, the party is going to get behind that person, the caucus is going to get behind that person," Mr. Hansen said.
"Whoever wins and becomes premier is going to be able to count on absolutely solid support from the BC caucus."
With about a week to go before B.C. Liberals choose a successor for Premier Gordon Campbell, Mr. Falcon, the former health minister, has the support of 19 Liberal MLAs and cabinet ministers.
George Abbott, the former education minister, also has 19 ministers and MLAs on his side.
But Christy Clark, a former deputy premier returning to politics after a six-year absence, has only one MLA supporting her.
Mike de Jong, a former attorney general, has none in his corner.
Mr. Hansen's announcement leaves Mr. Campbell, who is remaining neutral, two cabinet ministers (Kevin Krueger and Barry Penner) and one MLA (Donna Barnett) on the sidelines.
During a campaign appearance Friday, Ms. Clark touted her outsider credentials, noting she represented the kind of change the B.C. Liberals will need to win a fourth term in a provincial election now scheduled for 2013.
"My campaign is about change. It's about making sure people who have felt outside government for a long time start to feel they're on the inside," she told reporters at a tourism announcement in North Vancouver that included a pledge to get rid of parking fees in B.C. parks.
"I am offering change for British Columbians. That's what we are going to need to win the next election."
Ms. Clark, on leave from her job as a radio talk show host, has been leading the other candidates in polls measuring support among party members and members of the public.
The former education minister, who is promising more public consultation on policy, said she has spoken to each of the caucus members, and they have told her they would be happy to work for her as leader despite supporting other candidates as a first choice.
She said the drift of caucus support was not surprising. "What's happening is people who have worked together for a long time, and who are used to a certain way of doing things, are deciding they want to support each other in the way they do things," she said.
"I am proposing doing things differently. I know if I get a mandate from our party, we will start doing things differently."
Ms. Clark said she had a great deal of respect for Mr. Hansen, but was at odds with the manner in which he brought in the harmonized sales tax without consultation.
"He may have more in common and share [Mr. Falcon's]views about the way the HST was brought in. I don't share those views."
Mr. Hansen said he has remained neutral to this point of the leadership race because he wanted to get the provincial budget, tabled this week, out of the way.
However, he said he decided to take a stand because party members were pressing him for his pick.
Mr. Falcon said he was hoping Mr. Hansen could help rally undecided voters to the Falcon cause. "It will be instrumental in the coming days as Colin is able to talk to some undecided members, and help those about to make a choice."