Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson announces his bid for the B.C. LIberal leadership in Vancouver, Sept. 25, 2017. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Wilkinson weighs in for B.C. Liberal leadership

Vancouver MLA says support, experience is province-wide

He’s been a rural doctor, a big-city lawyer and president of the B.C. Liberal Party, and now he wants to take over the leadership.

Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson announced his bid to succeed Christy Clark Monday, with a lineup of caucus support from around the province.

Backers include new MLAs Tom Shypitka in Kootenay East and Doug Clovechok from Columbia River-Revelstoke. Veteran MLAs Donna Barnett from Cariboo-Chilcotin. Mike Morris of Prince George-Mackenzie, Michelle Stilwell in Parksville-Qualicum, and long-time cabinet minister Mary Polak from Langley are supporting Wilkinson.

“And more in the works,” Wilkinson, 59, said in an interview with Black Press.

Painted by the NDP as a silver-spoon representative of Vancouver’s wealthy West Side, Wilkinson stresses his roots as an immigrant from Australia at age four, one of five children. His father worked for the federal government in Kamloops, and then moved to Alberta when he was 14, attending public schools.

Wilkinson was in medical school in Edmonton when he won a Rhodes scholarship to study law at Oxford University in the UK, returning to the University of Alberta to finish his medical degree. Then he worked vacation relief for doctors in Campbell River, Lillooet and remote Dease Lake near the Yukon border. With the Social Credit government cutting back on doctors to stem the growth of health care costs, Wilkinson began practising law instead.

In the Clark government, Wilkinson was advanced education minister, serving briefly as Attorney General before the NDP and Green MLAs defeated the B.C. Liberals on their throne speech and formed a minority government this summer.

Asked about the outsider candidacy of Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts, announced Sunday, Wilkinson refrained from criticizing her directly, as potential rival Mike de Jong did.

“My combination of life experience and experience in government makes me ready to take on the NDP,” Wilkinson said. “We have to get ready for an election, which could happen at any time, and there’s no time for boot camp or training wheels in this job.”

Party members are voting on ranked ballots with the results to be revealed Feb. 3, as the B.C. Liberals get set to face off in the legislature with the NDP-Green government as it launches its first full budget. There are party debates and forums set for Vancouver, Surrey, Prince George, Nanaimo and the Thompson-Okanagan, plus a forum hosted by the B.C. Liberal Indigenous Network.

• Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier is expected to announce his bid for the B.C. Liberal leadership Monday afternoon.

• Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong intends to announce his decision on a second bid for the party leadership on Tuesday.

• Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone is expected to announce his intentions next week.

• Vancouver-False Creek MLA and former mayor Sam Sullivan announced his leadership bid Sept. 21.

• Rookie Vancouver-Langara MLA Micheal Lee is announcing his leadership campaign Tuesday in Vancouver.

Terrace business owner Lucy Sager, whose most recent political experience is president of the Skeena B.C. Liberal constituency and managing the successful campaign of Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, announced her long-shot bid for he leadership last week.

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