'Clearing of the air' needed in B.C. politics: Andrew Wilkinson
Can B.C. Liberal leader build on Clark's legacy—without her government's baggage? (And how exactly would the outdoorsman solve the animal meme that's divided the Internet?)
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An avid B.C. outdoorsman, Andrew Wilkinson confidently proclaims he knows "how to handle" grizzly bears, powerful predators known to dominate vast swathes of territory.
Although the newly elected B.C. Liberal leader boasted his bear-prowess when Metro jokingly asked him to tackle an Internet quandary (see below), his pick of wilderness defender seems fitting given his rise amidst an unprecedented era in B.C. politics.
On Feb. 4 the lawyer and Vancouver-Quilchena MLA, 60, swatted away attacks of five rivals to replace ex-Premier Christy Clark, who resigned her West Kelowna seat last July after she lost control of the Legislature to a Green-backed NDP minority government.
"We have to build on the past,” he said after his victory. “We’ve got the heritage of having put together the values that have led to success in the past. Those are things to build upon not to discard.”
The former B.C. Civil Liberties Association president and ex-B.C. Attorney General sat down with Metro Vancouver's newsroom last Thursday to answer questions about how he'll shake Clark-era scandals, defeat the NDP, and deal with issues of housing, pipelines, and political integrity.
On how he plans to oust the B.C. NDP-Green alliance
"The Kelowna by-election is on Wednesday, and the opportunity exists there for us to have more seats than the NDP, which makes an irony that the NDP is in office and we are not. So that points out the instability of the current coalition between the Greens and the NDP. And our job is to make sure that they're not getting along — by pointing out how inconsistent their positions are with either other."
On Alberta's B.C. wine boycott in pipeline feud
"They have started a fire in their own house. They are busy causing turmoil for British Columbians and Albertans who are innocently caught in a petty trade dispute between two governments that should know better …This shows a level of immaturity and volatility in the (B.C.) NDP government that is not suitable to a provincial government in this time."
On B.C. Liberal operative Brian Bonney's conviction in ethnic outreach scandal
"I have very high standards for the behaviour of people in the civil service. I was a member of the provincial civil service for almost five years, and I was very impressed at the quality of work they did, the tone which is very respectful, and the adherence to the ethical rules of the organization. That has to be paramount. The idea that someone can use tax dollars in the public service to do political work is totally unacceptable.
"There's the temptation for a party in power to misuse taxpayers' dollars. That's why we have the Opposition to hold them to account, and that's why members of the civil service are often appropriately prepared to give information to the media where they see inappropriate acts take place."
On B.C.'s 'Wild West' political donations under his party's 16 years in power
"British Columbia needs to have a clearing of the air of who's involved in the democratic process. And that lack of clarity still applies to our various protest groups and civil society organizations, in that the source of their funding is very unclear.
"When I was Attorney-General in the summer, I introduced a bill into the House that would have banned corporate, union and out-of-province donations — and the NDP and the Greens refused to allow the bill to proceed.
"It became clear through the election that there was a public sentiment that called for this step, and I was pleased and proud to be the one introducing the act which was blocked by the NDP and the Greens."
On choosing his wilderness defenders
Wilkinson, the former head of the B.C. Mountaineering Club, took up a wild challenge when Metro asked him to pick two species to protect him from attack in B.C.'s mountains. It's a meme that has divided and confounded the Internet.
His pick: three grizzlies and 50 eagles.
"Bears I know how to handle, and they tend to occupy territory to the exclusion of everybody else," he explained. "And I'll take eagles for surveillance and calling out when there are threats in the neighbourhood."