Andrew Wilkinson and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad session

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VICTORIA – As a new poll shows BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson struggling to gain traction with people, a look back at the BC Liberal effort in the spring session offers some insight.

Every week of the session seemed to bring another apology, retraction, or “clarification” for an out of touch or offensive comment from Wilkinson or a member of his team.

1. Renting is “a wacky time of life”

Wilkinson himself kicked it off in February when he characterized renting as a “fun” and “wacky time of life.” After initially attempting to clarify his comments without apologizing, Wilkinson eventually said he was sorry “if people have misunderstood those remarks.” (CBC, March 1)

2. “Students may get a little carried away”

A week later, Wilkinson took a stand against interest-free student loans on the grounds that students “may get a little carried away” with debt. Wilkinson faced a backlash from students, who called the comments “insulting.” Wilkinson was forced to walk back his position in a tweet claiming the media coverage was inaccurate and insisting he would not bring back interest on student loans. (Global, March 5)

3. “Grown up people don’t use this kind of language”

Before March was done, Jas Johal had apologized for using a derogatory Punjabi term in question period, which one observer called “childish,” saying that “grown up people don’t use this kind of language.”  (CBC, March 26)

4. Rich Coleman compares ALR changes to the Holocaust

Next came Rich Coleman, who compared Agricultural Land Reserve changes to The Holocaust. Speaking on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Coleman claimed a move requiring landowners to go through municipal governments to apply to remove land from the ALR was similar to “people whose rights were taken apart and away from them in the 1940s.”

Coleman initially apologized “to anyone who took offence” before clarifying: “to be clear, I apologize without reservation for drawing the parallel I did earlier today.” Wilkinson issued a tweet that denounced Coleman’s comments but did not mention him by name. (Global, May 3)

5. Coleman and Throness speak at anti-abortion rally

One week later, Coleman and Laurie Throness addressed an anti-abortion rally on the steps of the legislature. Coleman described abortion as “totally, totally wrong.” Following backlash online, Coleman bizarrely attempted to claim he “did not refer to abortion” in his speech (which, again, was made at an anti-abortion rally).

Throness attempted damage control by claiming “I do not call for laws against womens’ rights,” despite many of the speakers at the rally explicitly calling for government action against abortion.

Again, Wilkinson was forced to denounce his MLAs in a tweet but did not mention them by name. (Daily Hive, May 10)

6. “Pakistan Canada Association is disgusted with the comments made by Jas Johal”

And on Monday Johal was up again, apologizing for saying that Jinny Sims represented “Surrey-Panorama, not Islamabad North.”

The comments had drawn outcry from the Pakistani-Canadian community. The Pakistan Canada Association said Johal’s comment “feeds into a troubling Islamophobic narrative,” while the Pakistani Canadian Cultural Association noted that Johal’s BC Liberal colleagues “clapped to strengthen and show support for his inappropriate statement.” (StarMetro, May 24)

7. “Especially for the South Asian community… it’s important to keep their kids out of the bad end of town, keep their kids out of gangs”

Finally came Ian Paton. Speaking in support of an amendment lowering the age kids could work to 12, Paton told Minister Harry Bains on Monday:

“Especially for the South Asian community, this is something I cannot believe the Minister would not stand behind this amendment. With the South Asian community that know it’s important to keep their kids out of the bad end of town, keep their kids out of gangs and whatnot, to give them the opportunity to work and get a job at even age 12, 13, 14, and 15.”

After initially attempting to clarify his remarks without apologizing, Paton rose in the legislature on Tuesday morning to withdraw his comments. (Georgia Straight, May 28)