Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson announces his bid for the B.C. LIberal leadership in Vancouver, Sept. 25, 2017. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Shypitka, Bennett, backing Wilkinson in leadership bid

While there are now eight candidates running for the BC Liberal Party leadership, Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka says he believes Andrew Wilkinson is the right one for the job.

Wilkinson, MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena and a former Liberal cabinet minister, was quick to announce his bid for party leadership after the resignation of Christy Clark.

Shyptika says he got the chance to know Wilkinson when he travelled to the region during the election campaign and they took a road trip up to Invermere together to visit Doug Clovechok.

“We drove all up there and within five minutes, I saw the qualities and the character that a leader has, instantly. Super down to earth guy, really has his priorities in check and very knowledgable. He’s got incredible knowledge and he speaks from a layman perspective but he can also jack it up and debate with the best of them.”

Wilkinson grew up in Kamloops and excelled in his schooling studies, graduating with his medical degree from the University of Alberta. He received a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford in England in 1980 and obtained his first law degree.

Wilkinson worked in rural areas of BC as a doctor before receiving a second law degree from Dalhousie University in 1987.

He has previously served as president of the BC Liberal Party, BC Civil Liberties Association and the BC Mountaineering Club.

“He comes from very humble beginnings, he’s worked for everything he’s got,” said Shypitka. “He grew up not very privileged and he’s used knowledge, not only for himself but for his children, to get the opportunities that he has right now.

“He really wants to promote education, wants to promote skills training and he’s very family-focused and orientated and I think that’s one of his strongest qualities.”

Wilkinson also has more high-profile help as former Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett is co-chairing his leadership campaign.

“The reason I’m supporting Andrew is pretty straightforward,” Bennett said, in a video posted on Wilkinson’s website. “It’s not about area code, it’s not about gender, it’s not about age — it’s about his ability and his heart.

“He’s a very capable individual, he has tremendous life experience, which is very important in politics. He is also a very compassionate person.”

Wilkinson joins a crowded field that includes six members of the BC Liberal caucus, while Lucy Sager, a business owner from Terrace, and Dianne Watts, a former federal cabinet minister, have all declared their intent to run.

“I’m not surprised that there are eight candidates out,” said Shypitka. “I feel very fortunate to be part of a party where we’ve got so much depth where we have the ability to bring these type of quality people to the forefront.”

Party members will be able to vote for their candidate between Feb. 1-3, 2018, in a one-member, one-vote preferential ranked ballot.

“I really want to get the constituents engaged in this process, I want them to be informed,” Shypitka said. “I want them to make an educated decision on who they think is the leader and I’d like to have a discussion around it; I’d like to have a few forums between now and February to maybe brainstorm and talk about what qualities we want to see in a leader and which ones of the candidates best match that.”