Race begins for next BC Liberal leader as Christy Clark retires from politics
Christy Clark did everything possible, and even tried the art of impossible, to stay in power as Premier and as leader of the BC Liberals; however, the strategy and tactics she adopted to stay in power became reasons for her departure from public life. Every election strategy school teaches the impact of one key element on results: ‘It’s economy, stupid!’
All indicators of provincial economy pointed towards a robust economy with BC Liberals being praised as prudent managers. Yet the results of May election did not reflect this trust of the people in BC Liberal Party. The analysts and the party insiders were quick to point their fingers at the Premier and the leader of the BC Liberal Party – Christy Clark.
A small clique that ran the party and the government with open access to big money overshadowed all the achievements of BC Liberals. It is reported that the Premier received a stipend of $50,000 on top of her salary of $191,000. The big money’s large contributions came in smaller portion of $50,000 to Premier’s bank account. This created a huge problem of perception. Perception in politics is everything. Clark’s government became a ‘government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich’; at least in the popular perception. The result was a failure to form a majority government in Victoria.
This failure was followed by the use of every ‘convention’ or ‘custom’ of parliamentary form of government to stay in power a few days longer with the hope of another election. Clark became infamous for saying one thing one day and doing another the second day. She created a drama of swearing-in the new cabinet, albeit for a few days. She adopted NDP-Green platforms to deliver the throne speech. The final nail in her public life’s coffin came with her request from the Lieutenant-Governor to dissolve the assembly. Had her Excellency Judith Guichon accepted the Premier’s recommendations, the BC Liberals would have witnessed the repeat of 2001 election, but this time they would have been at the receiving end with NDP gaining the momentum.
After annoying the base of the BC Liberal coalition, the federal Liberals and federal Conservatives, the choices for Clark were very limited. She was stuck in a cul-de-sac of
BC politics with only one way out, and she took the opportunity to exit. How long will she be out of public life? It’s a question for tabloid columnists.
This exit has opened the doors for the BC Liberals to come back to power as the NDP-Green coalition struggles to create history. The rules of leadership race have become fairer to all the regions of the province. Unlike Clark, the future leader of the BC Liberals would not be able to rely on Surrey-Newton to capture the leader’s position. All 87 constituencies have hundred points each with a preferential ballot voting. The winner has to secure 50 per cent plus one. The new leader also has other important challenges.
For the past seven decades, the BC center-right coalition of free-enterprise politicians has provided fairly stable pro-development governments in Victoria with four exceptions: 1972, 1991, 1996 and 2017. The new BC Liberal leader must maintain this center-right pro-development coalition with a socially progressive agenda.
Provided the new coalition government is able to govern for a few months, one sure welcome change would be the reduced role of big money either from the business community or trade unions. Thus, a new leader must make the party more responsible to its membership for policy and fund-raising activities. The era of clique rule with the help of multi-millionaire donors must come to an end.
The loss of four seats in Surrey-Delta alone must be studied in the context. The new leader must allow local party members to select their own candidates and pay attention to the regional issues. The loss of power to elect their own party candidates had demoralized the rank and file of BC Liberals in the south of the Fraser region. With none of the local issues on the party platform, they found no reason to volunteer their time and money to support candidates hand-picked by Victoria.
The BC Liberals are temporarily out of power. A new leader with right strategy and will power can bring the party back to power. John Horgan’s temporary ‘marriage of convenience’ with the Green Party is not going to live a full-term.
(The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily the views of the publishers or the DARPAN team.)