B.C. Liberals pick former cabinet minister as leader after 2017 provincial election defeat

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Andrew Wilkinson has been chosen as the new leader of the B.C. Liberal Party, edging out former Conservative MP Dianne Watts on the fifth ballot in a vote Saturday night.

Wilkinson, 60, becomes the third elected leader of the party in 25 years, following Christy Clark and Gordon Campbell.

The oldest candidate in the race, Wilkinson had the most caucus support with endorsements from 13 MLAs. He has a long history with the party, including a stint as its president at the beginning of the century.

In his speech on Saturday, Wilkinson thanked his wife and children as well as party members for sticking with him during the “long process” of the leadership race.

andrew wilkinson election night

Wilkinson hugs a party member after making his victory speech on Saturday, in which he called on the party to remember its priorities heading back to the legislature. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

He urged party members to “remember our priorities … going into the next few weeks.”

“We will have to work together to bring our caucus together to be ready for the first day in the legislature against the NDP,” Wilkinson said. “And I’ll tell you, I am ready for them.”

He also called on the party to fight an upcoming referendum on electoral reform, to cheers from the crowd of 500 at Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre.

Wilkinson has served in several cabinet positions, including as minister of advanced education, minister of technology and innovation and attorney general.

Immigrating from Australia to Kamloops at the age of four, Wilkinson was a doctor and lawyer before becoming a deputy minister in the Gordon Campbell government.

He was also MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena in 2013.

Andrew Wilkinson b.c. liberals election night

Andrew Wilkinson celebrates after being elected leader of the British Columbia Liberal Party in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday February 3, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The former cabinet minister ran on a platform of a strong economy, including abolishing the small business income tax on family businesses and fighting the electoral reform referendum scheduled for this fall.

Wilkinson won on the fifth ballot with just over 53 per cent of the vote. Watts, who led the first four ballots, came second with 46.9 per cent.

She congratulated Wilkinson in a tweet on Saturday evening, saying she’s still “committed” to the party.

Former transportation minister Todd Stone, one-time finance minister Mike de Jong and Liberal caucus members Sam Sullivan and Michael Lee were eliminated earlier in the evening.

Around 60,000 party members voted online and by phone to replace Christy Clark.

The former premier resigned after the NDP formed a minority government — with the support of the Green party — following a non-confidence vote that brought down the Liberals in June.

With files from the Canadian Press, Justin McElroy and Deborah Goble

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B.C. Liberals pick former cabinet minister as leader after 2017 provincial election defeat

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