The idea of running for office had long been on Andrew Wilkinson’s mind, but as a doctor-turned-lawyer and father of three young children, the timing was never quite right.
Instead, the Australia native worked behind the scenes, serving as president of the BC Liberal Party from 1998 to 2001 and deputy minister for the Ministry of Economic Development from 2001 to 2006. He also sat on a number of boards – including the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourism BC – and served as president of the BC Civil Liberties Association from 1993 to 1995.
He wore many hats, but none too many for a Rhodes Scholar who received a medical degree from the University of Alberta and law degrees from both the University of Oxford and Dalhousie University. (Asked about his motivation in those days, Mr. Wilkinson shrugs it off, saying he simply enjoyed school: “I finally decided, at the end of my 20s, that I was broke and needed to get a regular job.”)
Then, in the summer of 2012, the stars aligned: Liberal MLA Colin Hansen announced he would retire, vacating Vancouver-Quilchena, the riding in which Mr. Wilkinson and his wife have lived for 13 years. Meanwhile, the Wilkinsons’ children were now teenagers, no longer as dependent on their parents. “I remember a former federal finance minister told me at one point, when I expressed interest in politics, he said: ‘When your family circumstances and your job and your financial status and your riding all line up, you have to jump through that window,’” Mr. Wilkinson recalled. “It only happens once.”
He jumped, taking 54 per cent of the votes in a February nomination meeting, beating former Vancouver city councillor Suzanne Anton.
His experiences guide his politics: As a partner at McCarthy Tétrault, Mr. Wilkinson had a “special interest in green, renewable-energy development,” according to his online biography. He is also an active outdoorsman – kayaking, cross-country skiing, cycling and mountaineering when time allows. Certainly such outdoor pursuits factor into his thinking on such hot-button issues as the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the process of hydraulic fracking. While much of the back-and-forth during the campaign has been a matter of economy versus environment, Mr. Wilkinson enters these discussions pointing out it’s not either-or. “It’s a fallacy to say that you have to pick one or the other,” he said. “Responsible economic development that respects the land is entirely possible, and it works.”
He arrives at the same conclusions as the official Liberal positions: On Kinder Morgan, Mr. Wilkinson refers to the five conditions Liberal Leader Christy Clark says must be met for any pipeline projects. On hydraulic fracking, he points out the process has been in place for more than 60 years in B.C. without any significant incidents. He feels the scientific review the NDP wants would needlessly cost time and money and “create a lot of uncertainty for investors.” The fickleness of investors, he says, is something he learned about in his role as deputy minister for the Ministry of Economic Development.
Among the party and outside observers, there are whispers Mr. Wilkinson could be a strong contender for party leader some day, due largely to his impressive résumé. This idea he dismisses without hesitation: “My job is to win Quilchena,” he said. “We’re all part of a big team and the goal is to re-elect Premier [Christy] Clark.”