VICTORIA — The new leader of the B.C. Liberal party said Monday his predecessor is resigning his seat in Vancouver to give him a chance to run in a byelection. 

Kevin Falcon, who was elected party leader on Saturday, said Andrew Wilkinson has decided to resign his seat in Vancouver-Quilchena, clearing a possible path to the legislature.

“I’m excited about that opportunity,” Falcon told a news conference at the legislature.

The NDP government has six months to call a byelection.

The former cabinet minister held a seat in Surrey from 2001 until he left politics in 2012 to help raise his young family and pursue business interests with a Vancouver investment company.

Falcon, 59, also announced key caucus appointments for the three Liberal legislature members who ran against him in the leadership race, saying the party must unite now that the race is over.

“It’s not easy losing. Frankly, I’ve been there,’ said Falcon, who lost to former Liberal leader Christy Clark in 2011. “I know what it’s about.”

He appointed second-place finisher Ellis Ross to the critic’s role in energy and liquefied natural gas; Michael Lee was named Indigenous relations critic; and Renee Merrifield was named environment and climate change critic. 

Shirley Bond, who served as interim leader after Wilkinson’s resignation in 2020, will continue to perform leadership duties in the legislature until Falcon has a seat.

Falcon said he will be watching the NDP’s throne speech Tuesday when the legislature resumes for action on child care, housing and the opioid crisis.

He said the New Democrats have promised $10-a-day child care since 2017, but “I’m still looking for it.”

Falcon said former Liberal governments he was part of promised to bring in all-day kindergarten programs at schools, which was achieved within one year.

B.C.’s next election is set for October 2024, but battle lines might already be emerging between the two parties.

Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon said the government is looking forward to debates with Falcon.

“You know, I think it’s important to remind British Columbians that he just left a little while ago, and he has a record, a history,” said Kahlon. “In fact, he was the architect of some very deep cuts to the province that we’re still paying for today.”

Falcon said the NDP government stands in the way of building a strong economy.

“I don’t want to have to clean up a big mess from the NDP again,” Falcon said. “That’s why it’s important to get in there and cut them off at the pass before they can do too much damage to the economy and the finances of the province of B.C.”

Falcon said he will be a strong advocate for a free enterprise economy, but he also wants to ensure diversity and tolerance of people of all races, genders, faiths and backgrounds are hallmarks of a renewed B.C. Liberal party.

“I mean this sincerely,” he said. “I would rather not win unless the party is prepared to be rock solid behind me in the change of direction I want to take this party.”

An election post-mortem report released by the party last June said the Liberals are perceived by many as lacking diversity and must embark on a rebranding that supports the values and aspirations of voters.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2022.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press