Andrew Wilkinson wins BC Liberal leadership

Former BC Liberal president, and longtime Liberal organizer Andrew Wilkinson won BC Liberal leadership race on Saturday, leveraging his strong ties with existing MLAs and a co-operative deal with rival candidate Mike de Jong to pull off victory.Wilkinson, 60, won the race on the fifth counting round, squeaking out a narrow victory over outsider candidate Dianne Watts, a former Surrey mayor and MP, who had promised to reform the party. Instead, members tilted back toward Wilkinson’s status quo approach.Wilkinson won the race with 4,621 points or 53.11 per cent of the vote, compared to Watts’ 4,079 points or 46.89%.    In his victory speech, Wilkinson thanked former premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark, promising to carry on their work.“That is the heritage we have to build on as a party,” said Wilkinson, to a ballroom of Liberal supporters at the Wall Centre in Vancouver. “That is where we came from and that is where we have to honour and respect.

“We have to respect that work and understand those values that got us here. Those values of enterprise, allowing individuals and companies to get ahead in our society. That’s why we do this work. Thinking of fiscal responsibility, that we are the party that does not spend our children’s money.”

“My task is to make sure we hold the NDP to account with smart incisive questions that will make their skin crawl,” Wilkinson said. He also pledged to fracture the power-sharing relationship between Horgan and Green leader Andrew Weaver.

“Our job is to drive the wedge between them and make sure they are more and more uncomfortable with each other and get ready for an election,” he said. “That’s our job.”

Wilkinson said he would reach out to young voters, do a better job of promoting the Liberal plan for the environment and wildlife management, and try to appeal to female voters. He also promised to fight to defeat the proportional representation referendum.

Wilkinson was advanced education minister in former premier Clark’s government. He had 13 endorsements from Liberal caucus MLAs, the most of any of the six candidates.

The support gave him toeholds in key parts of the province and an ability to tap the networks of popular MLAs in the Kootenays, Langley, Parksville-Qualicum, Skeena, Kelowna-Lake Country, Surrey, Prince George and the Cariboo.