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Andrew Wilkinson’s best seven days

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Jordan Bateman on the best week of the BC Liberal leader’s still-young tenure

If the BC Liberals go on to win the next election, last week will be considered a turning point. After all, it was the best week of Andrew Wilkinson’s leadership – and perhaps the best week for the BC Liberals since before the 2017 election campaign.

It kicked off with a surprisingly upbeat party convention in Vancouver, November 2nd through the 4th. Party membership threw off the shackles of government and held a series of robust policy debates which ended up in support for opening the auto insurance market to competition (and maybe even selling ICBC off completely) and a series of both fiscal and regional measures designed to connect economic growth to everyday people.

On Saturday, Wilkinson gave his keynote, and it was the best speech of his career. He was heartfelt, he was intelligent, and he was authentic about both the party’s successes and failures.

Wilkinson offered a glimpse into what his election platform will look like, including advocacy for women in the workplace – drawing a standing ovation. He reached out to the important millennial vote, not by pandering with buzzwords like “woke” or “lit,” but with a message of inclusivity and presenting British Columbia as a place big enough to offer opportunity to everyone.

Of course, it’s easy to get hyped up by preaching to the choir. The party faithful is one thing; the legislature is another.

But the BC Liberals followed up with their best week of Question Period this session. They humiliated Vancouver NDP MLA Mable Elmore by pointing out she claimed $61 per day meal allowances while she was making a big public spectacle of taking the welfare food challenge and supposedly living on $19/week of food. It made national headlines.

They also forced Citizens Services Minister Jinny Sims – who just happens to hold one of the all-important Surrey swing ridings – to answer why several NDPers seemed to be hiding emails from the public record. And why emails that were released seemed to indicate that non-partisan public servants were being ordered to do political work.

To help his great week roll on, Wilkinson even got a lucky bounce. New-old Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum was sworn in and immediately led his council in a motion stopping the light rail project and demanding SkyTrain instead.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pseudo-endorsed the move, Premier John Horgan tried to stick it back on the TransLink Mayors. This, of course, was the kind of buck-passing that used to get Horgan frothing against Christy Clark. It’s also stupid: Surrey is too important a series of swing ridings for Horgan to do anything but rub his neck, cut ’em a cheque and send SkyTrain on its merry way.

That’s two significant Horgan blunders south of the Fraser: cancelling the Massey Bridge and chafing against SkyTrain. Wilkinson’s team is cashing in on both.

Continuing Wilkinson’s good week was a Mainstreet Research poll showing his BC Liberals had inched ahead of the NDP.

Finally, there was the proportional representation debate, where Wilkinson exposed how nebulous the proposed systems truly are. He went toe-to-toe with Horgan and held his own.

And he got under Horgan’s skin: the Premier was visibly upset and resorted to cringe-inducing quips to try and keep his temper in check. Wilkinson’s performance was so strong that Sun reporter Rob Shaw opined that the prop rep side may have to change their entire strategy to recover.

That’s a darned good week for the Opposition. Now they need to have another, and string together some wins.

Wilkinson’s best week doesn’t mean John Horgan had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad one – but you can bet B.C.’s Star Trek-loving premier is on red alert these days.

 

Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Director of Communications for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor. 

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