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British Columbia Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark, centre, votes in favour of a motion to change to a weighted voting system during the B.C. Liberal Party Convention in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday February 12, 2011. The party will elect a new leader to replace Premier Gordon Campbell on February 26, 2011. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
British Columbia Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark, centre, votes in favour of a motion to change to a weighted voting system during the B.C. Liberal Party Convention in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday February 12, 2011. The party will elect a new leader to replace Premier Gordon Campbell on February 26, 2011. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

BC Liberals approve weighted voting for leadership race Add to ...

The next leader of the BC Liberals will be chosen in two weeks under a new voting system that gives party members in every riding in the province an equal voice.

Delegates at a party convention voted nearly unanimously - 1,319 to 23 or 98.3 per cent in favour - to approve a preferential ballot on Feb. 26. Under the new system, votes from party members in each of the province's 85 ridings will be weighted so that each constituency has the same influence.

The six leadership candidates were united in supporting the change, but scattered opposition came from some delegates who argued it will dilute the influence of strong BC Liberal ridings.

Christy Clark, the frontrunner in the race according to polls, was first to the microphone to speak in favour of the change, saying British Columbia's next premier should be able to claim to have support of the party's members across the province.

Four other candidates for the leadership lined up to urge delegates to vote for change. George Abbott, the rural candidate who stands to benefit the most from the change, called it a "hugely important vote for the future of this party."

But it was leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon who won the biggest cheer in the room when he pointed out that the change would leave the BC New Democratic Party falling behind on voting reform.

The BC Liberals chose their last leader, Premier Gordon Campbell, in 1993 with a one-member, one-vote system. The party hasn't changed its voting system in the 17 years since, but a party official noted that officials within party headquarters have been quietly looking at change for the past two years.

It's the first hint that the party had been looking at succession planning long before Mr. Campbell was even thinking about stepping down. However his sudden announcement last November that he is stepping down left the party with little time to modernize its voting rules.

The six candidates in the race to replace Mr. Campbell have just two weeks left to campaign under the new rules. With the rules of engagement finally determined, they will be ramping up their appeals to the party's roughly 93,000 members.







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

And watch for Mason's Minutes - exclusive commentary and analysis from Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason - at 12:15 p.m. PT (3:15 p.m. ET), just before the convention gets underway; 3:15 p.m. PT (6:15 ET), after the rules of the Feb. 26 vote are set; and at 6 p.m. PT (9 p.m. ET), right after the candidates' debate.

Join us at tgam.ca/bc-politics

Click in the window below to watch the action live, and if you're on a BlackBerry and iPhone click here to join the live blog.



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