BY BILL PHILLIPS
It was a good crowd. About 60 people.
However, to the casual observer it could have been mistaken for a seniors’ tea rather than a political gathering. Other than a couple of reporters, there were no Millenials in the room. You would also be hard pressed to find any Gen Xers either. This was a Baby Boomer crowd and they showed up on a snowy Saturday afternoon to hear Liberal leadership hopeful Andrew Wilkinson, who has made his third campaign stop in Prince George.
“I’m always happy to hear any BC Liberal show up, listen to what I have to say, and ask me hard questions,” Wilkinson said about the demographic of the crowd. “Our job is to encourage growth in the membership from all kinds of corners of our society.”
Just days before his stop in Prince George the NDP announced that it is reviewing Liberal changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission. Wilkinson said he hopes the NDP aren’t just making changes for change’s sake.
“The NDP are taking a very crude yes/no approach to the ALR,” said Wilkinson. “We’re going to have to get more sophisticated with the different elements of the ALR. The worry is with the NDP is that they will just take revenge on whatever the BC Liberals have done.”
The Liberal changes, in 2014, created two zones within the Agricultural Land Reserve, essentially the Lower Mainland and the Interior.
Wilkinson said the two zone approach was a start on ongoing work that needs to be done with the ALR.
“I was in support of the two zone approach, but maybe that needs to be tweaked,” he said. “What it doesn’t need is to be flushed away and forgotten.”
With an older, likely more conservative crowd in attendance, Wilkinson pointed out that he has the support of the more conservative MLAs in caucus and that his campaign platform is the most fiscally conservative of any of the six other candidates.
He added, however, that he also has support from the ‘small L’ Liberals as well.
“This is very important,” he said. “We have to be the big tent that brings in people from the conservative perspective. Our job is to be the big enough tent to wipe out the NDP.”
He was asked about the legalization of marijuana, which is a federal issue but the distribution will be under provincial jurisdiction. Wilkinson said he supports privatization of that distribution and, even taking it even further, government liquor stores.
“Take liquor first,” he told the crowd. “I don’t know why we’re in the retail business at all. We don’t have government travel agents, we don’t have government gas stations. The idea that we have government stores is a remnant of the 1930s.”
He said government liquor store employees should have first crack at buying government liquor stores and, failing that, sell the stores off.
“We don’t need to be in retail liquor,” he said. “And I don’t think we should be in retail marijuana.”
He added that marijuana retailers shouldn’t be able to dress up the product to make it sound exciting. It should be sold in plain packaging.
“Make it boring,” he said. “Let’s make marijuana something marginal.”
He added medical marijuana should be sold in a pharmacy-like setting and recreational marijuana should be strictly regulated and sold in the private sector.
BC Liberals will choose a new leader next month.