Wilkinson brings Liberal leadership bid to Creston

Lorne Eckersley / Creston Valley Advance

Andrew Wilkinson became the first BC Liberal leadership candidate to visit the Creston Valley for the campaign when he arrived on Monday morning to meet with supporters at Jimmy’s Pub & Grill.

Andrew Wilkinson (R) and Bill Bennett (L) former MLA East Kootenay - Lorne Eckersley 

Andrew Wilkinson became the first BC Liberal leadership candidate to visit the Creston Valley for the campaign when he arrived on Monday morning to meet with supporters at Jimmy’s Pub & Grill.

Wilkinson, MLA for Vancouver – Quilchena, is one of seven remaining candidates vying to replace former premier Christy Clark after former cabinet minister Mike Bernier dropped out to support Mike de Jong last week.

“The main issue I am hearing is about the election, that we were preaching from 30,000 feet and saying things that didn’t really mean anything to the people,” he said in a pre-luncheon interview. “Meanwhile, the NDP was appealing to people on day-to-day issues. We need to be much more relevant.”

Born in Australia and raised in Kamloops, Wilkinson writes on his web site that he fell in love with BC’s great outdoors as a youngster.

“Even at a young age, I knew I wanted to make British Columbia my home forever – regardless of where life took me before adulthood,” he said.

Encouraged by a mother who had dropped out of high school in World War II, Wilkinson pumped gas and worked on chicken farms to pursue his post-secondary education. Eventually, he would earn both medical and law degrees, with studies at the University of Alberta, Dalhousie and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

He practiced medicine in rural and remote BC communities, then traveled the province as a lawyer. In the 1990s he became president of the BC Liberal Party, focusing on its renewal.

“I was proud to be on hand to see the BC Liberal Party bring free-enterprise back to BC in the 2001 election.”

In 2013 he sought and won a seat in the provincial legislature.

Issues he has been hearing about in his leadership campaign travels around the province focus on making the province attractive to business, ensuring competitiveness in tax and regulatory regimes.

“That applies right here in the Kootenays, as well,” he said.

Asked why he is seeking his party’s leadership, Wilkinson said he has a good understanding of all areas of the province.

A former Minister of Advanced Education, he is committed, he said, to ensuring “that British Columbians have the skills they need to get ahead.”

Despite the crowded slate of leadership candidates, Wilkinson said he is pleased with the response he has been getting.

“We are getting a remarkable reception. People are keen to get the message.”