SHAUN AQUILINE / THE REVELSTOKE CURRENT
Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson made an appearance in Revelstoke to talk about his campaign and why he feels that he is the right man for the BC Liberal Leader in replacement of Christy Clark.
Wilkinson was born in Australia, immigrated to Kamloops where he was raised. Although MLA Todd Stone is still a current resident of Kamloops, Wilkinson feels that his experience working all over British Columbia in the small markets, gives him the cutting edge that small regions need when it comes to a leader.
This campaign is about who will be the next BC Liberal Leader, but furthermore, it is about who wants to go head to head with NDP Leader, John Horgan and potentially become Premiere of British Columbia. Andrew Wilkinson sat down for an exclusive with the Revelstoke Current to discuss his vision and plans for the future if he becomes the BC Liberal Leader in February.
“This is the key question that everyone (running) needs to be prepared to answer…to me there are two components to why you want to do this, the first is making sure we have high quality, affordable higher education for everybody in British Columbia, the second part of that is to make sure we’ve got a really thriving economy, so people who finish these programs, have good jobs to go too… that is the fundamental purpose of the province of BC, the government, is to ensure that there is a sense of a bright future and that people sense that they have the same opportunity as we had when we were younger.”
Wilkinson spoke more specifically about how higher education was of extreme importance to him, that the key is to make sure there is a fully accessible higher education system within an hour of people’s homes.He feels without that a huge percentage of people that simply do not have access to the system, become lost in the clutter and ultimately do not enter the higher education system.
When asked if he felt he was more of a Progressive Conservative, Wilkinson stated that the BC Liberal Party has a great big tent that has to bring together people from a wide range of politics, Wilkinson currently has 13 of the most conservative MLA’s that are in support of his step towards leadership. He emphasized that neither the current government, nor his own should be spending the children of tomorrow’s money on desires for today.
The last election campaign for the BC Liberals did well in the BC Interior, In fact, for the first time in many years; Revelstoke has a Liberal representative. However, their overall campaign was a bust in the lower mainland. The campaign did not reach people at a local level nor at the heart of the matter of most families.
“I am also on the warmer side of issues; environmental issues and social services, you got to spend prudently so you can deliver the things you need to the people that need them the most. There is a good case to be made that our government got to hard-hearted in the later years, and lost a big chunk of the enthusiastic votes because we were perceived as being mean, and that doesn’t work.”
Although two seats were gained in the Interior, the Liberals lost 10 seats because the NDP campaign hit home for many working class families. The NDP drove home the concerns most BC residents face on a daily basis; traffic, bridges taxes, renter subsidies and childcare. Their main focus was overall cost of living, and the Liberals did nothing to that extent which came off as emotionally icy and only targeting the financially wealthy.
Wilkinson took one of the examples of 10 dollar-a-day childcare, that was a huge campaign success, and why it would be a failure if implemented.
“We announced thousand more childcare spaces in the February budget, the NDP have re-announced that same program, and they have not added anything to childcare budgets, spaces or subsidies. The NDP ran the campaign that they would create 10 dollar-a-day childcare for everybody, the problem with that is that it has been essentially a failure in Quebec, They have not provided any type of funding to back up the promise.”
Wilkinson claimed that one avenue to look at for those that are raising young families and help them alleviate some of the financial burden is provide a flexible approach to childcare. Faith based programs, community based programs, state base programs, and parental subsidies, so that people can adjust to circumstances in which they live, within their own community.
“This is not a matter of one size fits all. They learnt that in Quebec where they introduced the heavily subsidized childcare, guess what, the well-off people figured out how to use it, the ones who didn’t need it, got the benefits of it, the ones who did need it, were squeezed out with four or five year waiting lists, which defeats the whole purpose.”
When it came down to what gives Wilkinson that advancement over the other constituents, he simply stated “I grew up in Kamloops, I lived and worked in Lillooet, Dease Lake, Campbell River, I am the only candidate in the race that has the breadth of experience across British Columbia to understand how the whole province works, It doesn’t mean I know what the answers are in communities, It means I know what questions to ask.”
The BC Liberals will have to come up with a new brand message and rethink their old way that quite frankly, did not work in their favor.
“The next election campaign is going to have to have, essentially, two campaigns. One for the interior, to make sure we respect and understand what is going on, that it’s not taken for granted, that the Liberal party doesn’t assume it is going to win the Interior, make sure we are addressing concerns about major projects, highways or healthcare, we will have to be very attentive to the needs of the interior. We will also have to have a separate campaign in the lower mainland, dealing with things like transit and affordable housing, because those are the big issues in the lower mainland.”
Any candidate that is running must be savvy to the fact that British Columbia is a complicated province with 87 different ridings.
December 29th is the cut-off to sign up for a BC Liberal membership, without that membership a vote cannot be made.
A live debate among the candidates will be televised on Tuesday, January 23rd and the voting will begin February 1st, 2nd, with the results on the evening of Saturday, February 3rd.