Renee Merrifield, right, lost the federal Conservative nomination for Kelowna-Lake Country to Tracy Gray, left, in April 2019. Merrifield was elected as a Liberal MLA last fall and now intends to run for the leadership of the party.

Rookie politician Renee Merrifield is touting her business experience and "creative common sense" as she prepares to run for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party.

The Kelowna-Mission MLA, elected last fall in her first bid for public office, intends to join the field of contenders trying to succeed Andrew Wilkinson as head of the right-of-centre party.
"I'm running because I believe in the potential of this province," Merrifield said in a Monday release.
"I believe that no matter who you are, or where you are from, there is a place for you in the BC Liberal party," she said.
On her website, Merrifield describes herself as someone with 20 years of private-sector leadership, and someone who will bring fresh ideas and a new approach to government. 

"B.C. needs a leader who will bring a creative common sense approach to solving problems and meeting the challenges facing British Columbians," the website says. "We need a Leader who connects naturally with people from every part of our province."

Merrifield is a partner and chief executive officer of Troika Group, a Kelowna-based  development firm. Her website says she has helped to build 30 companies across B.C.

In 2019, she unsuccessfully sought the Conservative Party of Canada's nomination for the riding of Kelowna-Lake Country, losing to former Kelowna city councillor Tracy Gray.

Last year, she was named by Wilkinson to run for the BC Liberals in the provincial riding of Kelowna-Mission, held for several years by Steve Thomson. She easily won the riding with almost 51% of the vote.

But the Liberals lost the provincial election to the incumbent NDP and Wilkinson announced his intention to step down as leader. Other declared leadership candidates include perceived frontrunner Kevin Falcon, a former Liberal MLA who lost his 2011 leadership bid to Christy Clark.

Since being elected, Merrifield has been the Liberals' critic for Health. She has been criticized by NDP MLAs and that party's supporters for some tweets which they say amounted to an attack on provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

For her part, Merrifield said the NDP had "manipulated and warped" the meaning of her tweets. "I have so much respect for her," Merrifield said of Henry last December. "I have said that on record and to her personally. She has one of the toughest jobs right now."

Merrfield also presented a petition in the legislature in June, signed by 4,500 people, asking that the mask mandate in public schools be lifted. She said on Twitter that while she disagreed with the premise of the petition, she felt it was her duty as an MLA to present it in the legislature.

The new leader of the B.C. Liberal party will be elected by party members on Feb. 5, 2022.