Gavin Dew: Andrew Wilkinson's resignation as BC Liberal leader triggers a one year "shot clock." It's crucially important to get it right.
Andrew Wilkinson has indicated that he will be stepping down as leader of the BC Liberal Party, and will be replaced by an interim leader. He deserves thanks for doing the right thing.
Wilkinson’s written resignation is what triggers the one-year “shot clock” for a leadership vote. From the perspective of the party’s constitution, that would make late November 2021 the latest possible timing for a leadership vote to occur.
In the interests of procedural fairness and respect for all members, the executive or the leadership election organizing committee may want to look at the cascade of expiring four-year memberships at around that time. Thousands of new members were signed up in advance of the December 29, 2017 membership deadline for the last leadership vote. Some would be arbitrarily disenfranchised and some would not, depending on when a vote was scheduled in fall 2021.
BC Liberals should choose a new leader in a way that showcase the breadth of the party and instills confidence and enthusiasm. A “Zoom leadership race,” hampered by COVID restrictions, won’t achieve this. Nobody wants a leadership race, or a leader, in a bubble.
A COVID-restricted leadership race would provide few opportunities for people to come together in person, hug it out, and strengthen strained “family ties.” It would provide few in-person opportunities for members old and new to kick the tires of the people who want to lead them.
In light of the circumstances, BC liberals would be wise to consider ways to push the leadership vote into 2022 in order to allow for the kind of in-person campaigning that reconnects the coalition and generates excitement. The party executive can’t do this without the membership weighing in. Even if they can find a way to do so, they shouldn’t. Members deserve a say.
The October 2020 BC Liberal convention was turned virtual due to COVID, and then cancelled as a result of the election.
Perhaps one solution is a virtual convention in early 2021. At minimum, that would include an opportunity for BC liberal member to vote on the party executive that will oversee the renewal and leadership processes. It could also include a vote on whether to delay the leadership vote beyond November 2021.
Process matters – get it right.
Gavin Dew is a 36-year-old father and the founder of the Forum for Millennial Leadership, a non-partisan group working to engage and elect young Canadians. He was a BC Liberal by-election candidate in 2016.