The B.C. Liberal Party’s newly appointed leader, Andrew Wilkinson (right), spoke to a group of around a dozen people in the tea room of the Penticton Art Gallery in mid-January, as contenders made their rounds ahead of the leadership election over the weekend. Dustin Godfrey/Western News file photo

Okanagan-area ridings mostly ignore local endorsements

Andrew Wilkinson was the top choice in four of seven Okanagan ridings for B.C. Liberal leadership

Riding results from the B.C. Liberal leadership race are in, and ridings from the Shuswap down to the Similkameen more often than not ignored their local endorsements.

Wilkinson, who won the race in the fifth round of voting, was the top candidate for all three Kelowna ridings, as well as Vernon-Monashee, while in Penticton the top candidate was Michael Lee. Boundary-Similkameen chose former Conservative member of Parliament Dianne Watts and Shuswap chose Todd Stone.

Related: Battle lines fading with new B.C. Liberal leader: Penticton MLA Ashton

Ridings were, again, a mixed bag when it came to party members heeding the endorsement of their MLA — or, in the case of Penticton, a former MLA.

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo and Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick both endorsed their riding’s first pick for party leader, Todd Stone and Andrew Wilkinson, respectively.

But Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson endorsed Stone, who placed third in the riding’s first round; former Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff endorsed Mike De Jong, who placed fourth in the riding; and Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson endorsed Wilkinson, who placed fifth in that riding.

Related: Andrew Wilkinson takes B.C. Liberal leadership

Kelowna West does not currently have an MLA, with a byelection to replace former B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark set for Valentine’s Day next Wednesday. Current Penticton MLA Dan Ashton declined to endorse a candidate, saying he preferred to let people decide for themselves and Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster remained neutral as party whip in legislature.

With six candidates on the ballot, most of the ridings showed between 29- and 35-per-cent support for their top candidate in the first round of voting, while Kelowna West showed much more tepid support for Wilkinson, at just under a quarter of voting party members backing him.

North Okanagan-Shuswap voters were much more steadfast in their support — Todd Stone had the support of nearly 65 per cent of the Shuswap party members and just over 50 per cent of Vernon-Monashee voters backing Wilkinson.

Of the seven ridings, Kelowna-Lake Country had the highest turnout, at 472 votes cast, with Shuswap, Kelowna-Mission and Penticton all landing in the 300s. Boundary-Similkameen had 272 ballots cast, while Kelowna West had the lowest turnout with 266 votes cast.

By the fifth and final round of voting, just the Boundary-Similkameen and Shuswap ridings chose Watts over Wilkinson.


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