Andrew Wilkinson wins BC Liberal leadership on the fifth ballot


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It took five ballots, but Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson has emerged as the winner of the BC Liberal leadership race.

The Australian-born Wilkinson was first elected in 2013 and briefly served as Attorney General before the fall of Premier Christy Clark’s government last year. He won with 53.11 per cent support or 4,621 votes.

In his victory speech, he made the customary call for party unity. “We will have to work together to bring our caucus together, to get together that momentum, to be ready for that first day in the Legislature on February 13th against the NDP,” he explained. “And I’ll tell you I am ready for them!”

He also made the case for keeping BC’s free enterprise coalition intact. “We are the party that must stay together. We cover the broad spectrum. So I hope that nobody in this room and nobody watching at home will ever say again, ‘Are you a federal Tory or a federal Liberal?’ Because we don’t care!”

Wilkinson says he’s now looking ahead to what’s next. “The priority of course is to make sure that these 40-odd people that’ll form our caucus are feeling completely united as this party moves ahead.”

Calling his fellow Liberals “family”, he admits now is the time to come together. Wilkinson vows to press the NDP on issues that matter the most to British Columbians. “My task is to make sure we hold the NDP to account with smart, incisive questions that will make their skin crawl.”

Other topics he plans to tackle include housing and affordability, which he says affects people all across the province. “It’s a fundamental goal of the provincial government to make sure that people have enough money left in their pockets when the taxes have been taken off their paychecks so they can get ahead in life and they have that sense of optimism that British Columbia is where their future is.

“That’s our job. We’re going to push the NDP on affordability, and when we form government there’s going to be a whole package about affordable housing and there’s also going to be a package about prosperity across British Columbia and especially in the interior and on Vancouver Island because we want to win everywhere in BC.”

Former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts placed second with 4,079 votes. The 58-year-old was perceived as an outsider in the race. She left municipal politics in 2015 to run as a federal Conservative in South Surrey-White Rock. She last served as the Official Opposition Critic for Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour.

It was not a great night for former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, who was the first candidate out of the race. His last place finish on the first ballot saw him gather just 158 votes.

Mike de Jong also fared poorly. The longest serving BC Liberal in the race, he was first elected to the Legislature in 1994. His last-place finish on the second ballot saw him gather 1,436 votes.

Former Transportation Minister Todd Stone fell out of the race after placing last on the third ballot. Rookie Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee was next out, falling on the fourth ballot.

An estimated 60,000 party members were eligible to vote online and by phone to replace Christy Clark, who resigned after the New Democrats formed a minority government last summer, ending the Liberals 16 years in power.

The NDP was quick to offer kind words for to the new leader. In a statement, Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon says, “We offer our congratulations to Andrew Wilkinson on winning the leadership of the BC Liberals and look forward to seeing him in his new position in the Legislature.”

Premier John Horgan took to Twitter to congratulate the new Liberal party leader, saying he looks forward to working with him.

The Green Party also offered up their congratulations, with leader Andrew Weaver saying he looks “forward to collaborating with [Wilkinson] on issues of common ground.”

“One of our caucus’ key priorities in choosing a confidence and supply agreement over a coalition government was to ensure we could work with both parties to advance our shared priorities in the legislature,” reads Weaver’s statement. “I look forward to meeting with Andrew to discuss his priorities for the next legislative session and how we can collaborate on areas of common ground.”

Watch the BC Liberal leadership 2018 results below

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