British Columbia·Q&A

Andrew Wilkinson apologizes for 'misunderstanding' over rental remarks

Renting is “fun” and a “wacky time of life,” B.C. Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson said this week at the B.C. Legislature in a comment that sparked pushback from renters and political opponents alike.

The B.C. Liberal Party leader described renting as 'fun' and a “wacky time of life” this week

Andrew Wilkinson says his comments about renters in Vancouver referred only to his own experience in his 20s and not general society. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Renting is "fun" and a "wacky time of life," B.C. Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson said this week at the B.C. Legislature in a comment that sparked pushback from renters and political opponents alike.

He didn't initially take back his words but is now apologizing for any misunderstanding.

Wilkinson sat down with Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition, to talk about Vancouver's housing crisis.

Would you change anything about your statement in the legislature this week?

The statement in the legislature was referring my own life experience and I was talking about that period from 17 years old to 35, when I was a renter.

I added it up last night and I actually moved 19 times during that period.

It was, at times, difficult: some bad roommates and bad landlords, some very good roommates and very good landlords.

So, it's one of those times of life you go through.

Now, if people have misunderstood those remarks as talking about the fate of people throughout our society — I'm sorry. That's the kind of thing that leads to misunderstandings.

Where people were having difficulty with your statement is the suggestion is that renters are less than people who can afford to own a home.

Oh, I think that's ridiculous. I'm not saying that at all.

I was fortunate enough to be able to get a good stable job and build up some savings and scramble my way into a first house purchase with my wife.

That's not going to happen for everybody. What we've got to do is make sure that there's a sufficient supply of rental housing.

This is not just a phase — there are families with children. Do you have any idea what these people are going through?

Well, I did it myself for 18 years.

I know the feeling of being stuck to make sure you've got the right amount of rent. I know the feeling when people move out of a roommate situation and leave you holding the can to clean the place.

The vacancy rate across the province is 1.4 per cent and Vancouver is considered the second-least affordable city in the world. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

I'm talking about being a family with children, trying to find a rental where you could get tossed out any minute.

Obviously, that's a concern and that's why we have to have some degree of rental security.

Are you surprised by the reactions to your comment?

The reference to "wacky" is my own life experience in my 20s, so let's not amplify this completely out of context.

The point that needs to be made is that people have mixed experiences renting.

We need to have a sufficient rental market so that people have choices, this is critical in the rental market.

This interview aired on CBC The Early Edition on March 1, 2019 and has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview, click on the audio below.


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