This is the second in a series of profiles on the leaders of B.C.’s major political parties in the run-up to the provincial election on Oct. 24. Check back Tuesday for BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau.
It has been an essential part of Andrew Wilkinson’s core message in the 2020 B.C. election: He is trained as a doctor.
The BC Liberal Party leader hopes to convince the public that, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, they should elect someone who’s been on the front lines of the health-care system, and that they think of an old mantra when casting their ballot: “Trust me, I’m a doctor.”
“There is something you learn very early on when in medical school: You tell people the truth. There is no faking it. That is hard-wired for me,” Wilkinson told Global News.
The successor to Christy Clark was born in Australia and immigrated with his family to Canada when he was four. He grew up in Kamloops in a working-class family.
“One of the rules in our family is you paid for everything,” Wilkinson said. “You had to earn your way, every step of the way. So that is what I did.”
He put himself through school, training first as a doctor, and then a lawyer.
As a young doctor, he worked in remote areas of the province, including Campbell River, Lillooet and Dease Lake.
He later traded in the scrubs for a suit and put his legal degree from Oxford University to work, and then was hired as deputy minister of intergovernmental relations in the Gordon Campbell era. He eventually took public office himself when he won in Vancouver-Quilchena in 2013.
The 63-year-old served in Clark’s cabinet first as a Citizens Services minister, then Advanced Education, and briefly, after the 2017 election, as Attorney General.
The snap election call has left little time for the public to get to know Wilkinson. He was only chosen to become leader of the party in 2018. He rarely allows access to his private life, only mentioning he has two adult daughters and an adult son.
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When asked more about his family, he said he wants to protect their privacy, but has said more broadly: “It’s a lively dinner table conversation, and interestingly, we don’t get so much into politics as we do issues.”
Where Wilkinson does elaborate on his children is when he’s asked how he relates to the struggles that people are face under COVID-19.
His family home is more packed than it has been in years, he said, with two of his kids back in the house: one daughter, studying remotely as a fourth-year post-secondary student in Quebec, and his son, who starts his shifts at 5:30 a.m. for a company based on the East Coast.
“Our house now contains four people with full-time jobs. But let’s be clear, we are the lucky ones,” Wilkinson said. “We are the ones that think our jobs will be there, although it remains to be seen with my job.”
That subtle comment shows that he is well aware of his current position.
The Liberals are trailing in the polls and have struggled to gain momentum in a campaign that’s made them deal with controversies from within.
Internally party members are already talking about replacing him if they lose on Oct. 24. For now, Wilkinson’s focus is on trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“It’s easy to engage in speculation. There are 87 elections underway and we will see where it all ends up,” he said.
“We will have that conversation maybe after the election and maybe there will be a different role for me and we will be having a whole different conversation.”