By Surbhi Gogia
Andrew Wilkinson is the new leader of the BC Liberal Party. The second-term MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena defeated former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts on the fifth ballot, to become the leader of the opposition in the BC Legislature in 2018. Wilkinson served as Minister of Advanced Education and Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services under last BC Liberal Government led by Christy Clark. He was also the deputy minister of the British Columbia Ministry of Economic Development, where he had responsibility for economic issues, trade and tourism.
Apart from holding important government positions, Wilkinson has an impressive list of professional achievements. He is a lawyer a licensed physician and holds degrees from the University of Alberta, Dalhousie University, and Oxford University, where he attended as a Rhodes Scholar.
In an interview with Desi Today, Wilkinson talks about his top most priorities as the leader of the opposition and his take on various issues British Columbia is facing.
After being a lawyer, a licensed physician, what inspired you to join politics?
My family immigrated from Australia and I grew up in Kamloops. Coming to politics was an opportunity for me to help other people realize the dreams that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy. I was fortunate to serve as the Minister Of Advanced Education where we used lot of public funds to create opportunities for young people. Now I am fortunate to be the leader of the official opposition — the BC Liberal party. With good luck and voters’ support, we will form BC government to help people lead a better life.
What are your top most priorities after becoming the leader?
The first task was to make sure that the Caucus was united and comfortable. We have an excellent Caucus that has come together in a very strong way. The second thing is to get into our communities all over BC, get to know people better and get them to know me. This way they can have some confidence in my abilities and we can look forward to working together towards the next election.
How do you plan to achieve that?
We are starting with community meetings. I will be visiting people in their own communities, talking about the opportunities in BC and the problems with the NDP’s tax policies.
In your debates you pointed that social media and the Left has painted BC Liberals as a “callous, indifferent, downtown nasty party, that doesn’t care about our most vulnerable citizens,” and asked your party to reverse that image. How do you plan to do that?
We have to make sure that people understand our goal is to help them lead happy and productive lives by being able to make their own decisions, with their own money. The NDP is in the process of raising taxes all over the board which means people are not left with any money, making their lives less affordable. We have to make sure that we let people know — life will not get better with the NDP but more difficult.
Making life affordable is the very similar platform that NDP blamed Liberal government failed to achieve?
Yes and the NDP policies are actually not helping. They are increasing property tax, carbon tax and increasing taxes all across the board which will make life difficult for the people of our province. NDP is breaking its promise to make life affordable for the people of BC.
What is your take on current housing crisis?
Interestingly, the NDP talked about increasing the supply of houses and making them more affordable but now they are putting heavy taxes on the building of houses that will actually make housing more expensive and less affordable for the people. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by making sure that the supply of houses goes quiet quickly. We have to anticipate another million people coming to Vancouver. But the big question is where are they going to live?
How do you propose to solve this issue?
We need to get the supply of housing increased dramatically by making sure that municipalities are speeding up their approval of these projects. If we get a lot more supply into the market place then the prices will moderate and things will be more affordable for people.
More construction means larger effect on environment, more trees will be cut.
We have a lot of untapped opportunities to build in the existing city spaces. Take the example of the Lougheed mall. They are increasing the amount of housing dramatically by using the parking lot. It is a good opportunity to grow the housing supply on the existing space.
What is your take on implementation of Marijuana legalization in BC?
It is going to be very difficult because they (NDP) have decided to have state-run stores which will be separate from the Liquor stores. What we will see is the growth of a whole bunch of government-employee operated shops, which I believe should not be a function of government.
What do you have to say about the current tensions between BC-Alberta over the Kinder Morgan pipeline issue?
John Horgan has picked up a totally unnecessary fight with Alberta and to avoid the results of what happened with the dispute of wine, Horgan has tried to delay them in the courts. It is becoming clear that Alberta and the Federal government does not agree with the approach and it is an unnecessary dispute with our neighbours and the Government in Ottawa.
What is your message to the BC’s South Asian community?
We have a vibrant South Asian community in BC thriving as part of our private sector economy. We have to make sure that the opportunities exist for small family businesses rather than NDP putting more taxes on them.