Andrew Wilkinson was the fourth BC Liberal leadership candidate to swing through Smithers on a northern tour.
He stopped by the Aspen Riverhouse and spoke with about 20 interested residents. He took questions from those gathered, mostly focusing on resource development and negotiating with First Nations in the area.
Former Aboriginal Relations Minister and Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad was there to show his support and occasionally help answer questions.
Wilkinson spoke with local media after the meeting. He was asked how northern issues could be kept as a provincial focus after his comments to the crowd on the need for two separate campaigns.
He said having more Liberal MLAs in the North and Interior helps amplify that voice.
“We think we’re a much more effective voice for the northern interior than the NDP, but we cannot take the North for granted. It has to a central focus of what we’re doing so I believe there are going to be two campaigns next time: one for the Lower Mainland that will probably focus on affordability and transit; and one for the Interior and the North that will focus on resource based issues and local services issues,” said Wilkinson.
He did have trouble being specific when it came to the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (NWRBA) and Greyhound bus service.
Wilkinson was asked if he supported the NWRBA, which his party and the BC NDP came out in support of in last year’s election. The other candidates who visited the Bulkley Valley recently (still in the race are Todd Stone and Dianne Watts) gave their general support for the idea behind the Alliance, which aims to get more revenue to local municipalities from resource projects.
“We’re all familiar with the Northern Development Initiatives Trust and how that’s been pretty successful, and the Benefits Alliance is something I’m just learning about now as I tour around the North,” said Wilkinson.
He was then asked if he agreed with the concept of the Alliance.
“I’m always concerned about allocating specific revenues to specific projects. That if you said, ‘well, we’re going to take all the carbon tax money and put it into transit,’ that cuts out most of the people who pay … carbon tax … The people who get squeezed out by that are the people on social assistance, people with disabilities, because nobody’s running around saying they need a dedicated revenue stream,” said Wilkinson.
He was then asked about Greyhound’s proposal to withdraw service along Highway 16 and other northern routes, specifically about the company’s assertion that the new transit system is taking away riders and that a good solution may be to have government-funded service bid on by bus companies to replace the current Greyhound model.
“I haven’t been following the Greyhound issue closely but when you think about these two competing services, that neither one of them may be viable, clearly there has to be some kind of rationalization to make sure you’ve got a one viable service, and whether that’s the (BC Transit) shuttle system or the Greyhound system, I think that’s best left of to the Passenger Transportation Board,” said Wilkinson.
On another subject that provinces have been dealing with, he believes strong regulations need to be in place for marijuana legalization.
“My view of marijuana is any medical use of marijuana needs to be proven on the basis of good medical evidence and prescribed and distributed at pharmacy standards of purity and reliability; and secondly, retail recreational marijuana should not be sold by government, but should be very strictly regulated using plain packaging with severe penalties for selling to children,” explained Wilkinson.
He was also concerned about some in the environmental movement going too far, using the acronym BANANA.
“The idea was Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody. And this is an anti-development mentality that says humans are actually trouble makers and should be contained, and we should prevent humans from doing pretty much anything on the landscape. It’s a really crude idea and leads to nowhere because there are 4.5 million people in British Columbia who tend to live hear for a long time,” said Wilkinson.
He described his advantages over the other candidates as his experience as deputy minister, minister in three different departments, and experience in the private sector. He also pointed out he is a lawyer and a doctor.
A new BC Liberal leader will be chosen Feb. 3.