BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is making way for an interim leader, abandoning his previous commitment to serve until a permanent successor was picked.
Mr. Wilkinson, who has not taken media questions since the Oct. 24 election that saw the Liberals lose 13 seats, announced his plan Saturday in a Facebook posting.
“I welcome the selection of an interim leader from our caucus and will fully support her or him as our caucus prepares to act as the Official Opposition once again,” Mr. Wilkinson wrote.
The former attorney-general and advanced education minister said he sees “tough conversations and sincere reflections” ahead as the party, which governed B.C. from 2001 to 2017 under premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark, goes through a process of renewal.
“I can confidently say that I did my best for our team and for British Columbia,” wrote Mr. Wilkinson, a Vancouver area member of the legislature since 2013.
On election night, Mr. Wilkinson declined to concede in a brief statement, saying all votes needed to be counted. Two days later, on Oct. 26, he said he was stepping down once the party chose his successor. His weekend statement marked a new position on the party leadership.
Mike de Jong, a former Liberal finance minister, said he expects the party to move quickly to pick an interim leader given a looming postelection session of the legislature.
The selection could come on Monday or later in the week, he said. He declined to comment on who might want the job, but quipped, “It won’t be me. I am far closer to the end of my political career than the beginning.” Mr. de Jong was first elected in 1994.
In an interview Sunday, he said he did not specifically know Mr. Wilkinson was going to make his announcement, but that he was not surprised given previous conversations with departing leader.
The legislature is to convene Dec. 7 with a throne speech to set a postelection agenda for the NDP, in power since 2017. The party won its first majority government since 1996, with 57 of 87 seats in the legislature.
The Liberals won 28 seats and the BC Greens won two.
Mr. de Jong said the BC Liberal interim leader “will have to get up to speed very quickly in that role and select a shadow cabinet with critic responsibilities.”
Beyond the session, he said the BC Liberals face a larger challenge trying to connect with a new type of free enterpriser concerned about the environment and aboriginal reconciliation and opportunities for Indigenous communities. “These are but a few of the issues and realities that the party understands it needs to address and provide ideas around,” he said.
Earlier this month, the BC Liberals announced they are initiating an “independent debrief” of the 2020 election that will include interviews with the campaign team members and input from candidates, campaign manager and volunteers and also appointing a committee to consult party members on the timing and arrangements for the upcoming leadership race.
During the campaign, the Liberals and Mr. Wilkinson faced criticism over candidates who seemed out of step on equality for members of the LGBTQ community and one Fraser Valley incumbent who compared an NDP policy on free contraceptives to eugenics. Another made sexist and belittling remarks about an NDP candidate.
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