Lib­eral’s in­terim leader cut up at Clark’s sud­den de­par­ture

Penticton Herald - - OKANAGAN - By JAMES MILLER

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.”

JAMES MILLER/The Okana­gan Week­end

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.

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