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HomeBusinessExclusive: Wilkinson stands behind BC Liberal platform, campaign despite crushing Oct. 24 loss

Exclusive: Wilkinson stands behind BC Liberal platform, campaign despite crushing Oct. 24 loss

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Bob Mackin

Andrew Wilkinson told fellow BC Liberal MLAs that he is “totally open to the idea” of stepping aside before Christmas, if caucus wants to appoint an interim leader.

During an evening Zoom call on Oct. 28, members of the party’s pre-election caucus heard that the party executive will meet Nov. 1 to discuss how to elect a new leader and to conduct a post-mortem of the Oct. 24 election loss to John Horgan’s NDP.

Andrew Wilkinson announced his resignation Oct. 26 (Facebook/BC Liberals)

In a 97-second statement on Oct. 26, Wilkinson announced he would resign upon selection of a new leader. He did not take any questions from reporters.

The interim leader, Wilkinson said, would have to be someone not seeking the permanent leadership of the party. He recalled the caucus’s post-2017 election “fiasco” in Penticton. That was when Abbotsford-South’s Darryl Plecas successfully challenged ex-premier Christy Clark to resign. Rich Coleman became interim leader until Wilkinson won the February 2018 party election.

“We did our job, each and every one of us on this screen did our job, but there were headwinds,” Wilkinson said in a recording obtained by theBreaker.news.

The NDP had an overwhelming advantage, just like incumbents in pandemic elections in New Zealand, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, he said. It was a “low-information environment,” without events, crowds, personal touch or eye contact with voters.

“Just masks and once a day availabilities for the leader,” he said. “So it becomes a totally disembodied, sterile campaign where we’re all fighting against the control factor of Dr. Bonnie Henry.”

The Vancouver-Quilchena incumbent conceded the party was facing an uphill battle, but did not realize how steep it was until the second week of the campaign.

“[NDP] knew the second wave was coming, they hoped to have the election before the numbers went through the roof. Guess what’s happening right now,” he said. “They are going to have trouble managing this and we will have to hold them to account.”

For the time being, Wilkinson said there are about a dozen BC Liberal candidates left in limbo for up to a month while the final count of mail-in ballots decides what the Legislature will look like.

“That’s hard waking up at 4:30 in the morning thinking ‘will I have a job or not?’”

Wilkinson did not point fingers. He said the party had a “good, strong platform” and he never heard any complaints about it.

BC Liberals Sept. 17 online roast for Ralph Sultan (BC Liberals)

“It was not because of anything that you did or I did, we gave it our level best and it did not work out. We regroup and move on. We are proud of who we are, we are proud of what we’ve done. We have nothing to apologize for.”

Prince George-Valemount’s Shirley Bond, however, offered apologies to Jane Thornthwaite, the North Vancouver-Seymour incumbent facing defeat to an NDP newcomer.

In the campaign’s biggest scandal, Thornthwaite was accused of making sexist comments about NDP North Vancouver-Lonsdale incumbent Bowinn Ma in a leaked clip from the Sept. 17 online roast of retiring West Vancouver-Capilano MLA Ralph Sultan.

“I was one of the people that sat and listened to the roast and I never said a word,” Bond told her caucus colleagues. “I didn’t think anything of it, I took it in the context it was delivered, maybe I should’ve said something at the time or done something. I just want Jane to know that I deeply appreciate her and I think she paid a pretty big price for what happened there.”

Wilkinson agreed.

“In this role you can be skewered for a trivial thing. In today’s media world, it’s fundamentally unfair. The fact that those remarks got out was a big problem,” he said.

“I sure hope these remarks don’t make their way out.”

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