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B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announces he is stepping down as party leader, during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Oct. 26, 2020.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Former cabinet minister Kevin Falcon won the leadership of the B.C. Liberal party on Saturday night.

Falcon won on the fifth ballot, taking just over 52 per cent of the points available.

Legislature member Ellis Ross finished second with almost 34 per cent of the vote and Michael Lee was third, with about 14 per cent. Val Litwin, Gavin Dew, Renee Merrifield and Stan Sipos were dropped from the field after four ballots.

Falcon, 59, left politics a decade ago to spend more time with his young family and work in the private sector with a Vancouver investment and property development firm. Falcon and his wife have two daughters.

He held a number of portfolios in cabinet after first being elected in 2001 including transportation, health, finance and deputy premier. Falcon finished second in the 2011 leadership contest, losing to Christy Clark, who served as premier until the party lost power in 2017.

The leadership race was called after the resignation of Andrew Wilkinson following the party’s 2020 election defeat as the NDP won a majority government.

The party gained more than 20,000 members during the leadership process, bringing its total membership to about 43,000. Members were eligible to vote online or by phone starting last Thursday in a voting system that awarded points to the candidates based on how those ballots were cast.

But during the campaign, concerns about new party memberships were raised by several leadership candidates during the campaign, leading to an audit by the party.

A last-minute petition was filed this week by long-time party member Vikram Bajwa in the B.C. Supreme Court to delay the release of Saturday’s results for 15 days, but a judge rejected the legal bid just hours before the Liberals were scheduled to announce a winner.

Justice Heather MacNaughton said Bajwa’s evidence was speculative and delaying the results would be unfair to other party members. She also found a delay would have caused irreparable harm to the party.

A lawyer for the party argued in court on Friday that Bajwa had not provided substantial evidence to support his concerns of voter irregularities, and the party’s own evidence showed reasonable steps were taken to ensure voter eligibility.

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