B.C. Liberals start planning leadership contest to replace Andrew Wilkinson

·3 min read

VANCOUVER — British Columbia's Liberal party took the first steps Thursday towards selecting a new leader while also addressing a constitutional technicality that still has Andrew Wilkinson as party leader.

The party appointed former cabinet minister Colin Hansen as co-chair of an organizing committee to oversee the campaign. A date hasn't been set yet to choose a new leader.

Hansen, known as a stalwart in the governments of former premier Gordon Campbell, will co-chair the seven-member committee with Victoria lawyer Roxanne Helme.

Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond said she is energized by the formation of the campaign oversight committee and downplayed the fact Wilkinson hasn't followed the protocol to resign under the party's constitution.

"I just have to say this, that British Columbians this morning didn't wake up and worry about whether or not there was constitutionally a technical issue with who's the leader of the B.C. Liberal Party," she said at a news conference.

Wilkinson announced his resignation after the Liberals lost the election last fall and dropped seats that were once considered safe for the party.

In the days following the Oct. 24 election, Wilkinson held a brief news conference where he said he planned to resign, but would remain leader until a replacement is chosen. About one month later he posted on Facebook: "It is now time for me to leave the role as Opposition leader as voters in B.C. have made their preference clear."

Although Wilkinson hasn't official resigned, Bond said she is leading the Liberals.

"I'm speaking to you today as the leader of the Opposition, make no mistake about that," she said.

Wilkinson is not receiving any leadership benefits from the party and he has no leadership responsibilities, Bond said.

"I can assure you this, Andrew Wilkinson is focusing on his role as an MLA," she said. "He has no responsibilities, no stipend, nothing like that related to the B.C. Liberal Party. We certainly expect a letter of resignation at some point in the next few weeks, but the fact of the matter is I lead the official Opposition."

Wilkinson was not immediately available for comment.

Bond, who has already ruled herself out of the Liberal leadership race, said 2021 will be a year of reflection, renewal and rebuilding for the party.

"In the meantime, the party will continue to create and unveil the leadership contest rules and how it will work," she said. "I'm quite energized looking at what candidates might emerge and eventually they will transition to take on the role that I have now."

Other members of the organizing committee to help pick a leader include legislature members Jackie Tegart, Derek Lew, Sarah Sidhu, Don Silversides and Cameron Stolz.

The committee's mandate includes determining the timeline for the leadership election, establishing the campaign's rules and implementing the election process for party members.

— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

The Canadian Press