Andrew Wilkinson becomes leader of the Official Opposition after winning B.C. Liberal race to succeed Christy Clark

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Andrew Wilkinson has been a doctor, lawyer, Rhodes scholar, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and B.C. Liberal party, deputy minister, and holder of three cabinet portfolios.

      Now, he has another title to add to his c.v.: leader of the B.C. Liberal party.

      Tonight, the second-term MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena defeated former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts on the fifth ballot, mounting a somewhat unexpected come-from-behind victory.

      The final results showed Wilkinson with 4,621 points compared to Watts's 4,079 points in the B.C. Liberals' quirky voting system in which each constituency association has 100 points.

      Wilkinson was in third place after the first round of balloting, well back of Watts and Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee.

      Others who went down to defeat were former cabinet ministers Todd Stone, Mike de Jong, and Sam Sullivan (who served briefly as the minister of community, sport and cultural development).

      After being first elected in 2013, Wilkinson was named minister of technology, innovation and citizens' services by then premier Christy Clark.

      It wasn't as senior a post as some might have expected, given his background, leaving some to wonder if Clark didn't want him to rise too quickly in her government.

      Not long afterward, he was appointed to oversee the ministry of advanced education after the former minister, Amrik Virk, became enmeshed in a scandal over compensation paid to the president of Kwantlen Polytechnic University while Virk was on the board.

      Only after the last election did Clark give Wilkinson a senior portfolio, attorney general, which he held until Lieut.-Gov. Judith Guichon asked for her resignation.

      Wilkinson's tenure as advanced education minister was marked by an increase in provincial government meddling in the postsecondary system. Most notably, that came by linking a greater share of future operating grants to whether these institutions were supporting training for "in-demand" jobs.

      As well, some colleges and universities ramped up training for the liquefied-natural-gas industry, which was a pet project of former premier Clark. This occurred even as the Clark government rarely offered any meaningful increases in operating funding to these institutions.

      The meddlesome B.C. Liberal approach didn't impress Andrew Weaver, the leader of the B.C. Greens.

      He called the hype around LNG "a message of hope wrapped in hyperbole".

      "The purpose of a university is not just to train a bunch of people who can screw screws into the wall," Weaver told the Straight in 2015. "The purpose of a university is to train people who can critically assess information to allow them to participate in an informed manner in a democracy."

      At the same time, Weaver said that Wilkinson was a "first-rate appointment" to oversee advanced education.

      The following year, SFU president Andrew Petter also raised concerns about the overall approach to universities without criticizing anyone by name.

      "Instead of calling upon universities and colleges merely to respond to predetermined labour market demands, we need to empower our institutions to develop our labour markets and to drive our economic future," Petter said. "While our competitors in Europe and Asia invest in education as a primary feature of their economic strategies, we look to our natural resources and appear to regard education—pardon the pun—as secondary."

      Later, the B.C. Liberals stymied Weaver's efforts to prevent the B.C. government from continuing to appoint a majority of governors to the boards of B.C. universities.

      When Wilkinson was the minister of advanced education, the B.C. Liberals cut funding for adult basic education. The former government also spurned requests to fund postsecondary education for young adults who had aged out of foster care.

      Both of those decisions were reversed by NDP advanced education minister Melanie Mark with the support of her boss, Premier John Horgan.

      Of greatest concern to environmentalists, however, might be Wilkinson's ardent support for the fossil-fuel industry.

      Shortly before the last election, he said that if the B.C. Liberals were reelected, they would "repeal" the City of Vancouver's "ban on natural gas".

      In fact, there was no ban. However, Vancouver and Victoria councils have voted in favour of asking staff to aim to make their cities 100 percent reliant on renewable energy by 2050.