Andrew Wilkinson quits as B.C. Liberal leader before successor chosen

Andrew Wilkinson has announced he will step down as leader of the B.C. Liberal Party effective immediately.

Wilkinson had previously said he would stay on until a permanent leader is selected, which could take months, but now says he’s stepping aside for an interim leader.

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“It is now time for me to leave the role of Opposition Leader, as the voters of British Columbia have made their preference clear,” he wrote in a Facebook post Saturday.

“In doing so, I welcome the selection of an interim leader from our caucus and will fully support her or him as our caucus prepares to act as the official Opposition once again.”

The B.C. Liberals suffered a major blow in the Oct. 24 election, which saw the B.C. NDP win a majority government. The Liberals won just 28 ridings, down from 43 in 2017, and was mostly swept out of Metro Vancouver by the NDP. The party also lost its lone Island seat in Parksville-Qualicum.

The Liberals faced criticism during the campaign, as a candidate who later quit the party compared free contraception to eugenics, and another was heard making sexist remarks about an NDP candidate. Wilkinson came under fire when a video emerged that showed him laughing at misogynistic comments made about an NDP opponent during a Zoom roast.

Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite has criticized Wilkinson for throwing her under the bus for publicly criticizing her for sexist comments she made about NDP MLA Bowinn Ma, but saying almost nothing for months as male MLA Laurie Throness repeatedly defied the party on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, calling it “a double standard between the treatment of men and women.”

Wilkinson, who became leader of the party in 2018, had announced he would resign at a brief news conference on Oct. 26, saying he would step down “as soon as the new leader is selected.” He has not spoken publicly since.

He was expected to face a showdown with MLAs about staying on as leader at a caucus meeting planned for this coming Thursday.

In his Facebook post, Wilkinson said the party has a lot of work to do to “rebuild and renew,” which he said will start with tough conversations and sincere reflections.

“There are still many conversations to have about how we can do better,” he said. “Some of those conversations are taking place right now, some of them publicly. I can confidently say that I did my best for our team and for British Columbia, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve our province and all of the people who consider this great place their home.”

Carlie Pochynok, a spokeswoman for the B.C. Liberal Caucus, said they are trying to determine a date to choose the interim leader.

Wilkinson will remain in the legislature as the member for Vancouver-Quilchena, the riding he has represented since 2013.

The B.C. legislature is set to return Dec. 7 for a brief session beginning with a throne speech focused on keeping people safe and the economy moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

— With files from Rob Shaw and The Canadian Press

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