Opinion
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BC Politics

Andrew Wilkinson, Mr. Warmth

From the politician who vowed to make ‘skin crawl,’ a list of greatest snits.

By David Beers 2 Mar 2019 | TheTyee.ca

David Beers is contributing editor of The Tyee.

“It’s a little rich to call me elitist.” Good one! Puns are funny. But quick, who said it?

The villainous tycoon on The Simpsons comedy show, Mr. Burns?

Or Andrew Wilkinson, the silver-maned lawyer and doctor who leads the BC Liberals and represents one of the province’s wealthiest ridings?

Whenever an election rounds into view, a favourite question pollsters ask prospective voters to answer is: “Candidate (fill in the blank) cares about people like me. Yes or no?” Andrew Wilkinson has had 13 months as leader of the BC Liberals to burnish his appeal. But how to burnish a man so Mr. Burns-ish?

Last Wednesday, social media blew up in derisive disbelief after Wilkinson, speaking in the Legislature amidst a rental crisis, called paying rent “a rite of passage.” Heck, for him, renting “was challenging at times, but it was fun. It was part of growing up and getting better. We’ve all done it. It’s kind of a wacky time of life, but it can be really enjoyable.”

On Twitter, #wackytime trended as renter nation rose up.

Wilkinson’s political foes naturally pounced. Yet for two days the leader of the opposition remained mum, until his burnishers let him try and patch things up.

At first, on CKNW, it seemed to be going pretty well. “Would I phrase it differently this time? Sure, why not? To correct the record, renting can be very difficult and very stressful, and some people are forced to do it their entire lives, even if they don’t want to.”

Okay! Why not! Except shortly after, when invited to acknowledge the obvious, that he comes from the “apex of privilege” and faces an image challenge, Wilkinson choked.

“Well, that’s just a cheap crack, isn’t it?” he bristled. “When I moved to Vancouver, I had 79 cents. I had enough pasta and tomato sauce to get by and I did that until I got my first paycheque.” At which point comes your answer to the quiz at the top of this article. It was Wilkinson with the tone deaf punchline:

“So it’s a little rich to call me elitist.”

You have to feel for Wilkinson’s public image team, again defeated and sent back to the drawing board. For on that board must be scrawled all the previous times their boss had a chance to muster mammalian empathy, only to display the instincts of a Great White.

Some previous chances flubbed:

In a TV interview, personal reflections on his first year as Liberal leader:

"I was told initially that I was aloof, and I thought, well, that's way better than being dumb or lazy or any of those things, so you have to take your credit where you can."

On the role of the opposition in B.C.’s democracy:

"Our job is to drive the wedge between them and make sure they are more and more uncomfortable with each other and get ready for an election. That’s our job."

On his calling as opposition leader:

“My task is to make sure we hold the NDP to account with smart, incisive questions that will make their skin crawl.”

On what was dawning on him after 20 years running the BC Liberal Party, raising cash for it, shaping its policies and now leading it:

"I think people are kind of frustrated generally about things like housing affordability."

On why the ‘wild west’ of political fundraising (as the New York Times named B.C.) was excellent:

“We don’t have limits in British Columbia and that’s how it has been working now for decades. It’s a system that works.”

On why citizens really needn’t bother themselves about it:

“No one gets special treatment by being a campaign donor.”

On news House Speaker Darryl Plecas had arranged an investigation into alleged misspending of public funds by the Legislative Assembly Clerk and the Sergeant-at-Arms:

“There is a grave concern the speaker is out of control.”

On the investigation itself, before any of the jaw dropping findings had been made public:

“…a farce…”

On the NDP tax of 0.2 per cent on homes over $3 million:

“…class warfare…”

On NDP Finance Minister Carole James, referencing a Beatles song from 1966:

“…the Tax Woman…”

Wow. Even Stephen Harper understood if you are going to play the Beatles card to seem like a regular human being, maybe pick a different song.

 [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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