Liberal leader Wilkinson says ‘at least three’ MLAs won’t run in next election

The B.C. Liberals are suggesting that changes within their own caucus could be on the way.

Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson told reporters on Thursday that three members of his caucus have already told him they don’t plan on running the next provincial election. This comes after Liberal candidate Tony Harris finished second in the Nanaimo byelection on Wednesday night.

“At least three of our BC Liberal MLAs have signaled that they are not running again,” Wilkinson said, “and that’s the opportunity for renewal with candidates like Tony (Harris), people who are young and enthusiastic and know their community and that’s what we are looking for.”

Wilkinson would not tell reporters who the three MLAs are that would not be running again.

Many Liberals have been in the legislature for decades. Linda Reid was first elected in 1991, Mike de Jong in 1994 and Rich Coleman in 1996.

NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson won the seat and will be the next MLA for Nanaimo.

The Nanaimo riding has been a stronghold for the NDP throughout the years, having lost it just once since the 1972 provincial election. But Wilkinson says even though the party is looking towards renewal, their popularity went up in Nanaimo.

Based on the preliminary results, Harris captured 40.47 per cent of the votes, up from the 32.5 per cent won by Paris Gaudet as the party’s Nanaimo candidate in the 2017 provincial election.

“Every party needs renewal, every party needs new blood, fresh faces, new ideas and that’s what we’re doing,” Wilkinson said. “We had a very strong, happy campaign with lots of energy.”

The Nanaimo byelection was also the first electoral battle waged in the province under the new electoral reform rules. The NDP government passed legislation banning union and corporate political donations and putting caps on individual donations.

“The campaign finance rules didn’t really effect this campaign much. Tony Harris was very popular and able to raise all the funds necessary,” Wilkinson said.

While the Liberals gained vote share, so did the NDP. Malcolmson earned 49.2 per cent of the vote on Wednesday, an uptick from the 46.5 per cent Leonard Krog needed to win the seat in 2017. The byelection was triggered when Krog stepped down as a MLA to take on the job as mayor of Nanaimo.

“It’s vital that everyone came out both to vote and to volunteer to make sure that we were able to keep this as an MLA seat and to keep this cooperative government going,” Malcolmson said on Thursday morning.

“We are going to keep producing results that help improve people’s lives.”

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