Although the next provincial election isn’t scheduled until the fall of 2021, BC Liberal party leader Andrew Wilkinson realizes work needs to be done now for his party to win back the Courtenay-Comox riding.
The Liberals lost the Courtenay-Comox seat in one of the closest votes of the 2017 election, when NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard claimed the riding in a race that garnered national attention.
Leonard defeated Liberal candidate Jim Benninger by so few votes on election night (nine), that a judicial recount was ordered.
After the recount and the inclusion of mail-in ballots, Leonard was declared a winner by a margin of 189 votes, replacing retiring Liberal Don McRae as the local MLA.
It was the Liberals’ narrowest margin of defeat in any riding in the province, making the Courtenay-Comox riding one of the top priorities for the party, in its quest to regain power.
Wilkinson was in Courtenay Friday for a riding association breakfast, and said work is already being done to find a candidate for the next provincial election.
“The riding association here is extremely active, well-financed, they know what they are doing, and now they are into a candidate search, which is going to be very exciting, because in the last election, you decided who was going to form government,” he said. “It’s very real, and very important here in the Valley.
“The call to action at the riding association this morning … was, ‘It’s time to get out there folks… you’ve got a great constituency association and what you’re missing here is the candidate for the next election. So cast your minds far and wide, talk to people… and try to get people motivated and interested in the idea of running as a candidate.”
Wilkinson has called on an old guard to lead the search for a new Liberal candidate for the Courtenay-Comox riding: McRae.
“That’s very helpful, because I think Don has left a very positive image and feel in the entire Comox Valley for his performance as an MLA,” said Wilkinson. “Don McRae is exactly the kind of candidate we are looking for; smart, focused, very keyed into the local community, very good-humoured and a straight-up, authentic person, that everybody really liked.”
Wilkinson won the Liberal leadership election in February of 2018, after Christy Clark’s Aug. 4, 2017 resignation.