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Liberal Senator Larry Campbell is endorsing Kevin Falcon as the best leader of the BC Liberals, acknowledging some will be surprised he is backing a candidate seen as closely associated with the federal Conservatives.

Mr. Campbell, a former Mountie and B.C. chief coroner, was elected Vancouver mayor in 2002 as a member of the left-wing Coalition of Progressive Electors. He was appointed to the senate by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

Mr. Falcon has been seen as more on the right end of the coalition of federal Liberals and federal Conservatives that has governed British Columbia as the provincial Liberals since 2001.

However, Mr. Campbell said his endorsement of a candidate who has touted Conservative icons Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher as political heroes is actually attuned to his practical political philosophy.

"I don't go left or right. I take a look at the issues and what I think is the best way to go ," Mr. Campbell said in an interview, explaining his choice announced Wednesday.

Mr. Campbell said he considers all of the candidates to be friends, but concluded Mr. Falcon would be best able to maintain the BC Liberal coalition of left Liberals and right-wing Stephen Harper Conservatives.

"He can move back and forth within that and listen to all concerns," Mr. Campbell said of Mr. Falcon. "I've had dealings with him as mayor. I have talked to him as senator, and he's always been straight up with me.

"He's always been honest, and he's always listened, and I think that reflects in his ability that we have seen in his two ministries."

Mr. Falcon is a former long-time transportation minister, who has more recently been minister of health. The Cloverdale-area MLA stepped down from cabinet to enter a race for the leadership of the BC Liberals prompted by the resignation of Premier Gordon Campbell. BC Liberals will choose the next leader from six candidates that include Ms. Clark and former education minister George Abbott, on Feb. 26.

Mr. Campbell said it was his view that a centrist philosophy is a necessity for governing B.C. and Mr. Falcon would be best at embodying it.

"In the dealings I have had with him, I have walked away saying, `Well, we don't agree, but I understand where he's coming from and what he's doing.' That's important, I think, because people need to know you can make decisions and you can stand by them and have a reason for standing by them, and it's not just a rhetoric position, there's a real reason for it."

Mr. Campbell said he decided to make his views clear without coaxing from the Falcon campaign, and would have made his declaration sooner, but didn't want it lost in Christmas celebrations. He has also just returned to Canada from a trip.

"I wasn't running around being strategic," he said.

Mr. Falcon has the support of Tory senators Gerry St. Germain, Richard Neufeld - a former BC energy minister - and Yonah Martin.

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