As far as Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster is concerned, B.C. Premier John Horgan is in trouble.
Foster predicts newly elected Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson will give the current premier a run and help guide the Liberals back to running the province after their defeat in 2017.
Wilkinson was elected leader Saturday at the Liberal convention in Vancouver.
“He’s going to be a handful for Horgan,” said Foster. “I’m really pleased with the outcome. Andrew is a great guy and he has a lot of support in our riding. He’s smart, likeable.”
It took five rounds of voting for the Liberals to elect Wilkinson, who grew up in Kamloops, as the new leader, replacing Christy Clark.
Wilkinson finished the fifth round with 4,621 points to beat former Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who finished with 4,075.
Watts led after the first round of votes. Rookie Vancouver MLA Michael Lee was second followed by Wilkinson, MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena. Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone was fourth, followed by Abbotsford West MLA Mike deJong. Vancouver-False Creek MLA Sam Sullivan dropped off the ballot.
In round two, deJong dropped from the ballot, followed by Stone in round three and Lee in round four.
Wilkinson never led any votes until the final count.
Foster has worked with Wilkinson, former advanced education minister, on the new trades centre being built at Vernon’s Okanagan College.
The fact Wilkinson has worked and lived in small rural communities is another big plus, according to Foster, former mayor of Lumby.
“He really has a grasp on small communities in rural B.C.,” said Foster. “All-in-all, he’s well supported by caucus. They hold him in high esteem. He’s an excellent choice. I couldn’t be happier.”
Shuswap Liberal MLA Greg Kyllo, also from a small community, was elated with the choice of Wilkinson.
“He’s a very sharp, well-spoken man,” said Kyllo, who originally threw his support behind Stone. “He’s a great guy. I have a lot of respect for him and he’ll be the one to lead our party back to the top.”
The B.C. NDP and Green Parties extended their congratulations to Wilkinson. The B.C. Conservatives, meanwhile, extended an invitation for small-c conservative Liberals to join their party.
Interim party leader Scott Anderson of Vernon is anticipating a “mass exodus of small-c conservatives following Wilkinson’s victory.
“We have seen an upsurge in interest in our party since the BC Liberal leadership election began,” said Anderson. “With the election of a confirmed supporter of Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada at the helm, there is simply no way for the BC Liberals to keep pretending that their party is in any way a ‘coalition’ of federal Conservatives and federal Liberals.
“It is obvious to anyone but the most obtuse that the Liberal Party of BC and the Liberal Party of Canada are one and the same.”