BY BILL PHILLIPS
Andrew Wilkinson agrees that it’s time to get ban corporate and union donations to political parties in British Columbia.
However, he says the NDP’s plan to help ease the transition with public funds is wrong.
“I’m leading the charge for us in the legislature to try and defeat this idea of taxpayer-funded political parties,” the party leadership hopeful said during a stop in Prince George Friday. “We think it’s just plain wrong. The NDP and the Greens have arranged to line their own pockets at the taxpayers’ expense.”
He said he will be introducing an amendment to the bill in a couple of weeks, attempting to eliminate the plan to provide political parties with $2.50 per vote to help them adjust to life without corporate and union donations.
He added regardless of what happens with the bill, he is committed to eliminate big money in politics.
“All of the parties have agreed it’s time to end the union, the corporate, and the out-of-province donations,” he said. “That’s a given.”
Wilkinson is one of seven candidates to declare they are seeking the leadership. It’s something he felt he could do and that he has the support for.
“The leadership of the Liberal party is an important position not only for the party, but for the future of British Columbia,” he said. “A number of us looked in the mirror and thought ‘this is something that really needs to be done and needs to be done well.’”
He checked his support, which he feels is strong, and decided to throw his hat in the ring. There are at least seven people in the running for the party leadership including Mike de Jong, Diane Watts, Mike Bernie, Michael Lee, Sam Sullivan, and Lucy Sager. Todd Stone may also join the race.
Wilkinson says the high number of candidates is a good thing.
“It’s a big contrast from the NDP who had to choose a leader by acclamation,” he said. “We have some very talented people coming forward to contest and seek the leadership.”
He says he has support across the province with a half-dozen MLAs endorsing his leadership big, including Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris.
“The financial support has been forthcoming as well,” he said.
With the Liberals’ strength now outside the Lower Mainland, Wilkinson, who represents the Vancouver-Quilchena riding, says he believes he can have appeal across the province.
“I live in Vancouver, I grew up in Kamloops, I’ve lived and worked in Dease Lake, Lillooet and Campbell River,” he said. “I have a pretty deep understanding of the whole province.”
And there is little time to waste in getting the new leader in place.
“Minority governments have a history of not lasting for four-and-a-half years, the way NDP and Greens have predicted,” he said. “The more predictable outcome is that they can keep it together for about two years. The NDP are going, their behavior is pretty high-handed … There is a lot of inappropriate behaviour on behalf of the NDP and we’re going to do our best to take them down.”
The Liberals will choose a new leader in February.