By Giorgio Moretti
Marco Polo: Like many of us, you came to Canada as an immigrant, what was that experience like and how did it shape you into who you became?
Andrew Wilkinson: I arrived in Canada as an immigrant at a young age, and found Canada very friendly and welcoming.
My family enjoyed the outdoor life in Kamloops, and we all benefited from the strong education system here in Canada, so I firmly believe that education is still the pathway to opportunity for all British Columbians. My brothers and sisters slowly lost their Australian accents, but you can still detect it in the ones who arrived as teenagers!
Marco Polo: How valuable is that immigrant perspective in politics today?
Andrew Wilkinson: It is incredibly important to have a diversity of perspectives in government.
We have to represent everyone.
The wonderful thing you get as an immigrant is an additional appreciation for a country because nobody controls where they are born, but when you immigrate, a country choses you.
Canada accepted us and allowed us to build a life here.
We didn’t have much money growing up but British Columbia was a land of opportunity and so even when I graduated university with barely any money to my name, I knew things were going to be okay. That was the promise of B.C.
Unfortunately, kids graduating university today don’t have that same optimism for the future.
They’re worried, and we have to do everything we can to make British Columbia that place of unlimited potential and opportunity once again.
Marco Polo: 60,000 people move to British Columbia each year, what does a government need to do to respond to that level of growth?
Andrew Wilkinson: A government has to be forward-looking and future-focused.
Technology has revolutionized our world and government needs to embrace that.
We need to be seeking innovative solutions for old problems, as well as the new problems on the horizon.
When it comes to responding to the physical growth of the province, the number one priority has to be housing.
It’s already difficult to find appropriate housing in the Lower Mainland, and it’s only going to get worse with 60,000 new people moving here each year.
Government has to ensure that housing supply increases.
That means working with municipalities to help cute the red tape that slows growth and adds additional costs to housing.
It also means creating the opportunity for more people to invest in the future of our province.
Marco Polo: Finding housing is especially difficult for many people with that level of growth. What is wrong with the current government’s approach to housing affordability and what would you do differently?
Andrew Wilkinson: NDP failed affordability promises.
Since then, they have introduced 19 new or increased taxes, balanced the books on the backs of municipalities, and gone back on their daycare and rental subsidy promises, and done nothing to effectively respond to the growing housing affordability crisis.
They promised to build 114,000 homes over 10 years and two and a half years into that plan only around 2,200 units have been completed.
One of the keys to helping housing affordability is supply, not increasing taxes.
On top of those additional costs, too many projects get tied up in arduous planning processes that can last years.
One third of all units in development applications submitted in 2016 in Vancouver are still held up in the approval process today.
This is years of bureaucratic inaction while people are asking for solutions.
To truly solve this crisis we need a combined effort alongside Ottawa, regional districts, and municipalities.
Marco Polo: The BC Liberals have been very critical of the NDP’s 19 new or increased taxes for British Columbians. Which taxes have you felt negatively affect affordability in this province the most?
Andrew Wilkinson: We have been highly critical because introducing 19 new or increased taxes in the middle of an affordability crisis making things worse.
Making British Columbians pay more does not help them make ends meet and does not make life more affordable
EHT & MSP Double-Dip.
Not reducing gas taxes as British Columbians face highest gas prices in North America.
NDP housing taxes like Speculation Tax have not lowered the cost of homes.
ICBC Young Drivers Tax.
Marco Polo: What is your message to British Columbians, in terms of what your leadership will bring to government if elected in two years?
Andrew Wilkinson: I want to ensure there is opportunity for all British Columbians, no matter where you live, work or choose to raise your family. If you live in this province, you should be able to be as successful as you want – your kids should have a future here.
British Columbians deserve safe, livable communities, 21st century technology and business practices, world-leading education, and sustainable resource development
We stand for a strong economy, caring community and making sure everyone who lives here has a sense of belonging.
Here in the Lower Mainland, we have to prepare for the next 25 years.
We have to take care of the people here today knowing full well that another million people will live in this region by 2040.
You’ve launched an effort to get younger and more diverse candidates in the next election, tell me about that?
We failed to win back government in 2017 because we had been talking to people from 30,000 feet instead of standing in their living rooms and hearing their problems first-hand. It’s easy to lose touch from afar.
That’s why I’ve been travelling across the province since becoming leader and listening to those very real concerns.
These next few years are about listening, taking people’s ideas and using them to help develop our new platform.
A significant part of that is attracting a diversity of viewpoints to help ensure that we are speaking to the issues effecting all British Columbians.
If we want to represent British Columbia, we should look like British Columbia.
We talk a lot about governing for the future, so an important part of that is having voices within the party that will be living in that future, 50, 60 years down the road from now.
Marco Polo: You’re known to be a lover of nature, what are some of your favourite outdoor activities?
Andrew Wilkinson: Hiking, Running, Exploring.
Gardening, especially trying my hand at different types of tomatoes.
Marco Polo: Toughest question: what is your favourite Italian dish?
Andrew Wilkinson: My favourite Italian dish is a good Caprese salad – but it needs to be followed by gelato and cappuccino!
Marco Polo: If people want to hear more from you, learn more about the BC Liberals, or get involved, where should they go?
Andrew Wilkinson: You can follow me on Twitter at @Wilkinson4BC or find my page on Facebook.
The BC Liberal Party is also on all social media platforms and you can also reach out to the party to get involved or start attending events in your community.