Andrew Wilkinson’s first party convention as B.C. Liberal leader comes at a key time for the opposition, trying to defeat a referendum the party sees as eroding their Liberal-Conservative coalition and tilting the province towards their opponents’ urban base.
Wilkinson also aims to take a stronghold seat in Nanaimo, held by the NDP since 2005, in a byelection that could tighten an already thin margin for the minority NDP government in Victoria.
At the convention at a downtown Vancouver hotel Saturday, the party had a “referendum rally” with a lineup of speakers targeting the method and choices of the proportional representation referendum designed by the NDP and B.C. Green Parties.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) November 3, 2018
Wilkinson began his speech by crediting former premier Christy Clark and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross for his work as Haisla chief councillor in laying the groundwork for the LNG Canada export facility planned for Kitimat.
Premier John Horgan has said he will call a by-election for Nanaimo by January, after a long-time NDP MLA Leonard Krog resigning his seat to take up his new job as Nanaimo mayor, which he is expected to do soon. His departure brings the standings in the legislature to 42 B.C. Liberal seats, 40 held by the NDP and three for the B.C. Greens.
Speaker Darryl Plecas sits as an independent, expelled from the B.C. Liberals for standing for the job and cementing the NDP minority government. If the B.C. Liberals win the Nanaimo seat, Plecas would be required to cast deciding votes if only one NDP or Green MLA is unavailable.
The B.C. Liberals find themselves in the unaccustomed position of not only being opposition, but falling behind the NDP in the new era of personal-only political donations.
The B.C. NDP raised $1.26 million from individual donations in the first six months of 2018, nearly double the take of the B.C. Liberals in the same period.
The B.C. Liberal Party total was $748,000, and the B.C. Green Party took in $271,000, according to interim finance reports released Wednesday by Elections B.C.
The individual donations are on top of the public subsidy that began to be paid this year, starting at a rate of $2.50 per vote earned by each party in 2017. That subsidy pays out about $27 million from taxpayers to the three eligible parties over five years, splitting about $2.4 million that was paid out at the beginning of 2018.