VANCOUVER -- At a time when so many British Columbians rely on medical advice from the province’s medical health officers, the leader of the BC Liberal party says his own background as a physician should be a factor as voters decide who should lead the province during the pandemic.

Andrew Wilkinson brought up his medical background during a virtual rally with Liberal supporters on Saturday, and CTV News Vancouver asked him if they should consider electing a “Dr. Premier” during a pandemic.

“It's an interesting question,” said Wilkinson in response. “I think the ability to process medical information has never been more valuable than right now. We've seen in the last six months this really tragic phenomenon on social media of the pseudo-experts and the misinformation. My background, the reading I still do every week when the New England Journal of Medicine arrives in my mailbox, is to be able to cut through the noise and figure out where it's really going.”

Wilkinson’s legislative biography lists Campbell River, Dease Lake and Lillooet as B.C. communities where he worked as a doctor; he later went on to earn a law degree and practice at a national law firm. His staff say Wilkinson held a medical licence until he was elected to the legislature in 2013, while the NDP contacted CTV News to point out his legal career included representing Philip Morris when the province was suing big tobacco for healthcare costs. 

“(My medical background) is a very helpful thing because it can be put to the service of the people of British Columbia in concert with (provincial health officer) Dr. (Bonnie) Henry,” said Wilkinson.

He also claimed that after Premier and NDP leader John Horgan called a snap election, the BC Liberal Party received an overnight flood of donations totalling $100,000 and that people are continuing to donate to the party at an unprecedented rate out of anger at Horgan.

Up until Horgan made the election call Monday, the New Democrats had raised more than half a million dollars more than the Liberals, spending some of it on a social media advertising blitz that dwarfed their competitors

Horgan announces new hospital for northwestern BC

As Wilkinson was speaking at a downtown Vancouver ballroom, Horgan was in Terrace making a campaign promise around health care, updating northwestern British Columbians of his plans for a new hospital in Terrace.

“Budget's been approved, it's in the 2020 budget: $441 million going towards a state of the art facility to replace this one. It will double the size of the hospital, almost twice as many beds," Horgan said, noting that Health Minister Adrian Dix began making plans soon after the NDP formed government in 2017. “Public access, quality health care is what we're all about. It separates us from our neighbours to the south."

He also warned voters that the hospital may never be built if his party doesn’t stay in office.

“In order to ensure we don't go back to the days when promises were made and not kept, we need to elect an NDP government," said Horgan, adding that provincial Medical Services Plan premiums had doubled under the previous Liberal government, with the funds going into general revenues.

He says when the NDP scrapped those premiums, it saved the average family $1,800 per year, a savings he described as the biggest middle class tax cut in the province’s history. The NDP government replaced the revenue from MSP premiums charged to individuals by introducing a payroll tax paid by employers in the province.

When asked a question about his transformation from opposition leader to premier and how he’d changed in the past few years, Horgan was surprised at the personal nature of the query, but smiled as he responded.

“I am happy to be who I am, I have always been optimistic and hopeful – that’s how I was raised, that’s my outlook, I’ve raised my family that way,” said Horgan. “I’m proud and honoured and humbled to have the opportunity to do this job and coming out now, three-and-a-half years after the last election, asking people for their support again is also humbling and moving and I’m excited to meet with people right across the province to talk about the issues that matter to them.”

BC Greens name first batch of candidates

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau was campaigning on Vancouver Island as her party announced the acclamation of 10 candidates, half of them in Metro Vancouver.  

“I am thrilled to welcome this stellar slate of candidates to represent the BC Greens in this election,” said Furstenau on the party’s website, which says the list of ridings and their nominated candidates will continue to be updated in the coming days. 

BC Green Party nominations are still open for the vast majority of ridings.