The B.C. Liberals have gone with a course correction, rather than an all-new direction.
British Columbia’s political landscape changed a little bit this past weekend with the election of Andrew Wilkinson as the next leader of the B.C. Liberal Party.
He was considered a contender throughout the race, but the outcome was very much in doubt until the final balloting on Saturday, when he surged ahead of runner-up Dianne Watts.
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Wilkinson may be newly minted as leader, but he’s strongly linked to the last Liberal government in which he served as Minister of Advanced Education and Attorney-General.
He was endorsed in the leadership race from the start by Michelle Stilwell, Parskville-Qualicum MLA, who suggested that his experience, intelligence and other leadership qualities made him the right person to head the party.
Party members seemed to offer mixed messages over the course of Saturday night. Mike de Jong and Todd Stone, both of whom headed high-profile ministries under former Premier Christy Clark, fell off the ballot earlier than later, signalling there was some desire for a refreshed look for the party.
It remains to be seen if Wilkinson provides that. Within the leadership race he talked a lot about fiscal responsibility and sought to separate himself from the other candidates that way; in a provincial election race, British Columbians can probably expect more of the same. He’ll also be able to draw on some of what his fellow leadership candidates brought to the conversation these past few months.
For a party that was searching for a new leader, the B.C. Liberals were in a relatively enviable position. They had won the most seats in the last election and certainly hadn’t been wholly rejected by voters. Maybe they didn’t need an entirely new direction, just direction.
As Wilkinson settles into his new role and B.C.’s Opposition becomes election-ready once again, it adds a level of accountability to the legislature.
All parties are prepared, now, for whatever’s next in B.C. politics.