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gary mason

In passing an amendment that puts all of its riding associations on an even footing at the leadership convention Feb. 26, the B.C. Liberals have avoided a possible rupture in the party along rural-urban lines.

"This vote is hugely important to the future of the province, future of the party," said Liberal leadership candidate George Abbott, speaking in favour of the amendment. He forgot to add: And hugely important to the future of my campaign.

In the end, the vote, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, wasn't even close. At a convention hall in Vancouver, it looked like virtually every delegate in the room voted in favour of the motion. Although we know that was not the case as the discussion before hand got quite emotional for one party member, who tearfully said the votes of delegates in more populous ridings would be diluted under a weighted vote system. Only 23 party members voted against the motion.

This was a big win for George Abbott and Christy Clark, in particular, as both candidates are perceived to have broader support throughout the province than their rivals. I think that is likely true of Mike de Jong, who is believed to have signed up most of his new members in a handful of ridings in the Fraser Valley. Personally, I think Kevin Falcon is just as happy as Mr. Abbott and Ms. Clark as he definitely has support that extends beyond Greater Vancouver, being particularly strong in the north.

Beyond the self-interests of certain candidates, the amendment was important for the unity of the Liberal party. The party's one-person, one-vote system did give enormous powers to the most populous ridings, rendering some of the rural ridings almost irrelevant. Former Liberal cabinet minister Bill Bennett of the Kootenays had suggested that if the amendment failed there was going to be widespread disaffection in Liberal ranks, which could possibly impact the outcome of the next election. He thought it might also provide the BC Conservative party with some momentum.

That is not a concern now.

It was a good day for George Abbott, who also benefited from another party change, which makes it mandatory for delegates at the convention to indicate a second choice on their ballot. Mr. Abbott is not expected to have anywhere near the number of votes on the first ballot as Christy Clark and Kevin Falcon and is really counting on being people's second and third choice. In effect, the compromise candidate.

Mike de Jong is in the same boat. And, I suppose, so is Moira Stilwell but she really has no chance of winning (as much as I like her and think she has plenty of great ideas).

All in all, a good afternoon for the Liberals I suspect.



Click on to our live blog, running through the duration of the convention, complete with audio interviews, live pictures and on-the-spot video.

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