B.C. Liberal leadership candidate Andrew Wilkinson (left) and Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick. Letnick announced Thursday he is supporting Wilkinson’s leadership bid .—Image: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA throws his support behind Wilkinson

Norm Letnick says he believes former advanced education minister is best person to lead Liberals

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick is throwing his support behind Andrew Wilkinson for leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party.

Letnick made the announcement Thursday, with the former advanced education minister by his side.

“I was looking to see who was the best person to advance the needs of my constituents, and I think he’s the guy,” said Letnick, who described Wilkinson, a medical doctor, as “brilliant.”

“He’s by far the smartest guy in the B.C. Legislature today.”

Letnick said he also chose Wilkinson because while he represents a Lower Mainland riding, and that will help attract back disillusioned voters who contributed to the Liberals losing seats in the last election, he also lived and worked all over B.C. and he can relate to the needs of rural residents too.

Wilkinson said he was delighted to have Letnick’s support, saying the local MLA’s endorsement brings to 13 the number of sitting Liberal MLAs supporting him. That’s more any other candidate in the race to succeed former leader and premier Christy Clark.

On Wednesday, Kelowna-Mission Liberal MLA Steve Thomson announced he is supporting Todd Stone in the leadership race.

Stone and Wilkinson squared off, along with the four others in the leadership race—Dianne Watts, Mike de Jong, Sam Sullivan and Michael Lee—in the fourth of six leadership debates Saturday in Kelowna.

The one-on-one exchanges between Stone and Wilkinson were some of the most spirited during the Kelowna debate.

Wilkinson said Thursday it will be important for the next Liberal leader to get out and meet British Columbians around the province to hear their concerns. And he said as leader of the Opposition, holding the new NDP government to account will be a top priority. He said he is up to both of those jobs.

During the debate, and again on Thursday, Wilkinson stressed the need to keep the B.C. budget balanced and the economy strong.

And to highlight the differences that need to be addressed across the province, he said on an issue like housing affordability, it means different things to people depending on where they live in B.C.

“In the Cariboo, for instance, its more about the economy. There, it means job security. ‘Will I have a job in the future,’” said Wilkinson. “In places like Kelowna and the Lower Mainland, it’s more about affordability. That’s why a strong economy is important.”

He said in talking to people in the Central Okanagan, it’s clear the economy is an important issue, as is keeping taxes low and supporting entrepreneurship, as well as care for seniors and social housing.

B.C. Liberals will name their new leader Feb. 3.

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