Maple Ridge’s former Liberal MLAs are singing the praises of their party’s new leader following Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson’s win on Saturday.
Wilkinson edged out former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts for the top spot, earning enough points from second and third placements to win the B.C. Liberal leadership with 4,621 points.
“It was a very dramatic night, that’s for sure,” said former Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing.
He had put his support behind Wilkinson at the beginning of the leadership race and watched as he came from third place in the six-candidate race to beat Watts with 53 per cent of the vote to her 47 per cent on the fifth ballot.
Watts, who led the leadership race going into the fifth round, finished with 4,075 points.
“It was very exciting,” said Bing. “He always struck me as the best public speaker, and he is able to take complex ideas and explain them simply for everyone,” said Bing.
He said Wilkinson is underrated, and the intellect of such an educated individual – he has been a lawyer and a doctor – has been undervalued.
Wilkinson was appointed minister of advanced education in 2014, and prior to that served as minister of technology, innovation and citizens’ services after being elected MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena in the 2013 general election.
Prior to that, Wilkinson worked as a lawyer in the Vancouver offices of a major national law firm, and before being called to the bar was a licensed physician, living and working as a doctor in Campbell River, Lillooet and Dease Lake.
“If he does become premier, he would do a good job,” said Bing.
Former Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton said Wilkinson understands the B.C. Liberal Party well, and that will be a strength.
Following the vote, Wilkinson thanked the other candidates, and reminded party members of the come-from-behind election win by Clark in 2013 and the landslide victory led by Gordon Campbell in 2001.
“Think about fiscal responsibility, that we are the party that does not spend our children’s money,” Wilkinson told a boisterous crowd at the Vancouver Wall Centre hotel on Saturday. “All of us have to come together now.”
Dalton never endorsed a candidate, but said Wilkinson got his vote in the end.
“I found him to be personable, approachable and experienced both in government and out of government,” he said.
“It was a very competitive race – it went to the fifth ballot, and that, to me, was indicative of the strength of the candidates,” added Dalton.
Bing said he will not be running for public office again.
“I’m happily retired, and won’t be running for election.”
Dalton is back to teaching, but wants to return to politics.
“I’m still in the fray,” he said.
“Doug was an excellent MLA to work with, and we did collaborate on a lot of things,” he added. “I’m very positive about his contribution to Pitt Meadows and to Maple Ridge.”
– with files by Troy Landreville