Liberal’s interim leader cut up at Clark’s sudden departure
Iw as very emotional and surprised, absolutely, because I love her as a leader. She’s the greatest person I’ve ever worked for. Rich Coleman
Rich Coleman was both saddened and surprised by the resignation of Christy Clark.
“I was very emotional and surprised, absolutely, because I love her as a leader. She’s the greatest person I’ve ever worked for,” Coleman told a small group of local reporters outside the Penticton Lakeside Resort where the BC Liberal caucus had been meeting since Wednesday.
Coleman became the party’s interim leader on Friday, after Clark officially announced she was stepping down as party leader and MLA for Kelowna West effective Aug. 4.
Clark, who was unavailable to the media, said in the statement that she is proud of everything she has accomplished, including working to make B.C. the leader in Canada’s economy and creating more than 200,000 jobs.
“I am certain that British Columbia’s best days lie ahead,” she said in the statement.
She also called her government’s protection of the Great Bear Rainforest “British Columbia’s gift to the world.”
Coleman, standing in front of the BC Liberal caucus and fighting back tears, said the party’s executive has 28 days to announce its plan to find a new leader. The entire process, he said, will take anywhere from three months to a year.
The MLA for Langley East since 1996 who hails originally from Penticton, Coleman said he will not challenge for the party’s leadership.
“I have no intention at this time to seek the leadership and if I ever did change my mind, I would step down (as interim) and I don’t plan on stepping down,” he said. “It’s obviously a very emotional time, I just found about this two hours ago.”
The shadow cabinet, he said, will be announced in the next few weeks and the priority is preparing for the fall session of the Legislature.
“We’re going to be ready. You’re going to see a remarkable opposition,” he said. “We’re going to focus on what’s important for B.C. — jobs, the economy, sending the right message internationally, tracking investment for the people of British Columbia, the people we care about, that’s our children, grandchildren, families and communities.”
When asked, Coleman said Clark had the support of caucus and it was her decision alone to resign.
“It’s a tough day for our BC Liberal family because we think the world of her. At some point in your life it’s time to move on and she has. I will value her friendship for the rest of my life. She’s such a remarkable person.”
Coleman said the job of a premier takes 60 to 70 hours per week and he believes Clark wants to spend more time with her teenage son and her family.
“I’m disappointed. Christy Clark was an incredible leader,” Penticton MLA Dan Ashton said. “You don’t need to look any further to what she did for this remarkable province and we are the best province in all of Canada. As you heard from Rich, she ran an incredible caucus and an incredible province.”
Clark, 51, was first elected to the legislature in 1996 and became deputy premier and education minister after the Liberals’ landslide victory in 2001. She left government in 2005. She won the B.C. Liberal leadership in 2011 and became the first woman in the province to lead a party to victory two years later.
In a statement, B.C. Premier John Horgan thanked Clark for her service.
“As an MLA and as premier, Ms. Clark fought passionately for what she believed in,” he said. “I know she will take that passion and energy to her next opportunity. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours.”
Coleman praised Clark’s record as premier and said she “saved the party” during a challenging 2013 election.
“What she’s given to this province should never be forgotten. I’ve never worked with anyone with more passion and love and strength of leadership in my entire life. She had a passion for the people of this province which should never be understated.”
Surrounded by his caucus, BC Liberal interim leader Rich Coleman addresses reporters outside the Penticton Lakeside Resort on Friday, following the announcement of leader Christy Clark’s resignation.