Despite sinking poll numbers and a rash of high-profile MLAs bowing out of the next election, the B.C. Liberals remain attractive to wannabe politicians, including the odd Rhodes Scholar.
Last week Andrew Wilkinson, a party insider who spent five years in government during the Campbell glory years, announced his candidacy in Vancouver-Quilchena, a riding held by outgoing B.C. Liberal Colin Hansen who won 70 per cent of the vote in 2009.
Wilkinson owns an impressive resumé. Rhodes Scholar. Medical doctor. Practicing lawyer. Economic brain.
In 2001, he was appointed deputy minister for intergovernmental relations before becoming deputy minister at the Ministry of Economic Development.
He now works for McCarthy Té-trault, a law firm based in Pacific Centre, where he practices the globalism preached by his party, helping clients (multinational corporations, for example) navigate the B.C. business world's bureaucratic web.
For example, Wilkinson's current client, a state-owned Swedish company, wants to export wood pellets manufactured from pine beetle wood. But before that happens, Wilkinson must negotiate with First Nations bands.
"Whenever you're dealing with things on the landscape in British Columbia," he said during a Courier interview last week, "you have to deal with aboriginal rights and title and traditional territories, that kind of thing."
Interestingly, Wilkinson's resumé also includes a two-year stint in the early 1990s as president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, a left-leaning group currently led by David Eby, the NDP candidate who nearly upset premier Christy Clark in a 2011 by-election.
As president of the BCCLA, Wilkinson supported Little Sister's, a Vancouver bookstore and sex shop that waged a longtime legal battle with the Canada Border Services Agency. In 1993, he told the Vancouver Sun that Canada Post was "out to get Little Sister's."
Which begs the question: Why the BCCLA? And are you still involved with the organization?
"I was impressed by their grassroots ability to get some things done," he said. "But I haven't had much to do with them for about 10 years."
Back in Vancouver-Quilchena, Wilkinson, a 54-year-old husband and father of three, has lived in the riding for 13 years. Clark's Liberals, he said, are better suited to steward the economy than the NDP, which has yet to nominate a candidate in the riding.
"We've got a very unstable world economy and the concern is employers are holding back," he said, noting B.C.'s September jobs report and its 5,700 new jobs. "The number of good jobs available to kids is less then it was when I came into the workforce in the 1980s."
Of course, you can't talk about economics in Vancouver without talking about housing. "Affordability is always a balance between incomes and expenses," he said, "and we all know that housing is very expensive here."
So what can government do to make Vancouver more affordable?
"I think it's more on the income side of things that government can be helpful in making sure it's a good environment for employers so people can have well-paying jobs."
Wilkinson takes a similar stance on foreign ownership of real estate in Vancouver-Quilchena and beyond. No new regulation. Let the global market reign.
"The influx of new Canadians is generally a good thing," he said. "And it's generally thought to be a pretty bad thing to start messing with who's allowed to buy a house."
The next provincial election takes place May 2013.