B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson thanks supporters in Vancouver, joined by MLAs and his wife Barbara Grantham (right). (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Andrew Wilkinson won big in rural B.C. to clinch B.C. Liberal leadership

Strong showing by Michael Lee helped defeat Dianne Watts

Painted by the NDP opposition as an upper-crust lawyer from Vancouver’s wealthy West Side, Andrew Wilkinson built his strongest B.C. Liberal leadership support in pickup-truck land, in the Kootenays, Cariboo, rural Vancouver Island and Northern B.C.

A constituency breakdown of voting by B.C. Liberal Party members shows Wilkinson piled up points across the province, including remote regions where he worked as a doctor early in his career. He made the most of the party’s weighted voting system, which gave each of the province’s 87 constituencies 100 points to balance out the urban population concentration in the south.

Wilkinson’s agreement with Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong also helped him over the top. Both urged their supporters to make the other their second choice, and Wilkinson benefited when de Jong was dropped from the ballot after round two.

One of the surprises of the leadership vote was the strength of rookie Vancouver-Langara MLA Michael Lee, who surpassed Wilkinson in his own seat of Vancouver-Quilchena in first-choice votes on a ranked ballot of six leadership contenders.

Lee also led former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts in Surrey-Fleetwood, Surrey-Green Timbers, Surrey-Guildford, Surrey-Newton and Surrey-Panorama. Watts, who represented South Surrey-White Rock as a Conservative MP before resigning her seat to run for the provincial leadership, won Surrey South, Surrey-White Rock and Surrey Cloverdale.

RELATED: Wilkinson’s winning margin, with video

During the leadership campaign, Wilkinson made much of his Kamloops roots as an immigrant from Australia, where he lived as a child. But MLA Todd Stone owned his Kamloops-South Thompson seat, winning more than 90 per cent of the vote, and more than 80 per cent in Kamloops-North Thompson.

In his acceptance speech, the 60-year-old Wilkinson acknowledged the work of Lee and Stone to attract a new generation.

“Our job is to get out there and make ourselves more attractive to youth, with a broader environmental message that points out that British Columbia has benefited from the B.C. Liberal track record on the Great Bear Rainforest,” Wilkinson said. “We did the climate action plan, we’re going to have an attractive program of wildlife management to show British Columbians is a strong environmental jurisdiction.”

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