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Liberal Andrew Wilkinson no longer represents party values, membership chair says

Last Updated Oct 16, 2020 at 6:10 am PDT

FILE - BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson. Image Credit: CityNews
Summary

A long-time BC Liberal Party organizer and supporter is speaking out against Leader Andrew Wilkinson

Nicole Paul spoke out against the BC Liberals' leadership because she thinks it no longer represents members' values

The party's membership chair says Laurie Throness should have been ousted 'months, if not years, ago'

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C.’s Liberal leader is now under fire from a long-time supporter and organizer, who says Andrew Wilkinson has failed to represent what the party stands for.

Nicole Paul says she’s speaking up now to help the party, not hurt it. She says the way Wilkinson handled controversial candidate Laurie Throness was the last straw – not decisively ousting him for views counter to party values but merely accepting his resignation.

“We should have taken stronger action. We should have taken a stronger stance. We should have stood up for members of party who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and it was a little too little too late, she tells NEWS 1130.”

Paul wants voters to be clear that Wilkinson’s approach and Throness’ views do not reflect the overall party.

“I think that the majority of the BC Liberal Party stands for things like free contraception, things like pay equity, things like LGBTQ rights. I don’t think that the position of Laurie Throness should paint the entire party,” she explains.

“I’m actually worried that the candidates least likely to get elected right now — or who this is going to hurt the most — are the candidates who are going to stand up against these views.”

Throness resigned Thursday after coming under fire for saying an NDP promise to provide free contraception had a “whiff of the old eugenics thing.” However, Pride groups called for Throness to be removed as a Liberal candidate for Chilliwack-Kent earlier this month over his LGBTQ+ views. He was at the centre of a controversy in June when he bought advertising in a conservative Christian magazine that defended conversion therapy. Despite calls from advocacy organizations, and condemnation from the NDP, Wilkinson didn’t drop Throness from the party.

Paul says the decision to speak out just nine days before the election was motivated not by a desire to sabotage the party’s chances, but to salvage them.

“I hope that when people look at their options this election they don’t just base their vote on what the BC Liberal Party is saying as a whole but look at that local candidate, because there are a lot of local candidates out there that should be considered,” she says.

Paul says it is the love of the party — she’s been loyal Liberal since she was 16 — that’s leading her to speak up. Currently the party’s membership chairI in 2013 she was President of the BC Young Liberals, and has close ties to former Premier Christy Clark.

“This party has been my life in a way. It is my passion. I love this party and what it stands for. I don’t love where it’s gone in the last few months, and few years. I think that we’ve lost our way and it’s time for us to get back on track,” she says.

For Paul, Wilkinson’s refusal to oust Throness sooner is a fundamental failure of leadership.

“I would say that there has been a lack of response. I think there were multiple voices calling for earlier action. I think that was coming from within the party, within caucus,” she says.

“I don’t think Andrew Wilkinson actually took action today. Laurie Throness resigned and Andrew Wilkinson accepted that resignation.”

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In a statement, Wilkinson confirms that Throness “accepted that his comments were wrong and inappropriate, and I’ve accepted his offer to resign as the candidate for Chilliwack-Kent.”

Paul says she expects a post-election reckoning within the party.

“I think that the social conservative element of this party is very small, and I actually would go on to say that a lot of social conservatives don’t actually share the views of Laurie Throness,” she says.

“I think there’s a neglected centrist wing of the BC Liberal Party right now that really forms what our base and the true values of our party are — and that’s fiscally conservative, free enterprisers who have socially liberal values. It’s up to the members of this party to decide how we move forward.”