Candidates with municipal ties to Vancouver politics have been defeated three consecutive times in recent months in their attempts to seek a provincial seat in the May 14 election.
First it was city councillor Geoff Meggs, who lost to longtime union leader George Heyman as the two battled for the NDP seat in Vancouver-Fairview.
Then it was park board commissioner Constance Barnes, who lost to tech company owner Matt Toner in her bid to represent the NDP in Vancouver-False Creek.
On Sunday night, it was former councillor Suzanne Anton’s turn to fall. She lost to lawyer and former deputy provincial minister Andrew Wilkinson in the fight for the Liberal spot in Vancouver-Quilchena.
This Wednesday, former mayor Sam Sullivan hopes to stop the trend as he takes on former Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt in a battle to decide the Liberals’ representative in Vancouver-False Creek.
Anton was a member of Sullivan’s NPA government from 2005 to 2008 and ran for mayor in 2011. She said she didn’t believe her municipal experience was a detriment to making a successful jump to provincial politics.
In fact, she stressed her background as a park board commissioner and councillor in her speech at the nomination meeting at Prince of Wales secondary school.
“We both had our supporters,” she said of her loss to Wilkinson, a first-time politician. “At the end of the day, he had a few more than I did. I don’t have any more analysis than that.”
Sunday’s loss was the second time Anton met political defeat since losing the mayoral race to incumbent Gregor Robertson in the fall 2011 campaign.
As a former park commissioner and city councillor, Anton had topped the polls for the NPA in civic elections. When asked if her political career was over, she replied “for the moment.”
Wilkinson, 55, defeated Anton by 112 votes to represent the longtime Liberal stronghold being vacated by retiring MLA Colin Hansen.
Wilkinson received 774 votes to Anton’s 662 in what was a 53 per cent voter turnout in a riding that saw both candidates sign up a combined 1,100 members to swell the ranks to 2,700 eligible voters.
“I suppose people must have come to the conclusion that my experience in government was a bit more relevant than Suzanne’s and they voted accordingly,” Wilkinson told the Courier after stepping from the stage where Hansen announced the results. “But it’s a tribute to Suzanne that the vote was so close.”
Although he didn’t have the public profile of Anton, Wilkinson has strong ties to the medical and legal communities — he’s a licensed doctor and practising lawyer — and he previously served as a deputy minister in the provincial government from 2001 to 2006.
A Rhodes scholar, Wilkinson was at one time president of the B.C. Liberal Party and B.C. Civil Liberties Association — leadership roles he doesn’t see as incongruous.
“That was a time when we were concerned about government intrusions into life,” he said of his days with the civil liberties association 20 years ago. “That is probably still a valid premise. I think that organization has different priorities now. But it’s always going to be a watchdog and that’s fair game.”
Wilkinson stepped down from his job at the firm of McCarthy
Tetrault to seek the Liberal nomination. He acknowledged it was a lot to give up with no guarantee that he nor the Liberals will win in the May 14 vote.
His top priority is to encourage investment in British Columbia and create opportunities for students to acquire the skills necessary to work in a competitive marketplace. Economic prosperity, he said, is what drives funding for quality health care and education.