Clark re­signs as leader of B.C. Lib­eral party



Christy Clark, a gifted po­lit­i­cal cam­paigner with an ever-present smile, an­nounced her res­ig­na­tion Fri­day as leader of Bri­tish Columbia’s Lib­eral party, one month af­ter her govern­ment was tossed from power in a dra­matic con­fi­dence vote.

Her res­ig­na­tion is ef­fec­tive Aug. 4, the for­mer pre­mier said in a state­ment. She is also leav­ing as a mem­ber of the leg­is­la­ture serv­ing the rid­ing of Kelowna-West.

“Serv­ing as pre­mier and serv­ing the peo­ple of B.C. for the past six and a half years has been an in­cred­i­ble hon­our and priv­i­lege,” Clark said. “I am cer­tain that B.C.’s best days lie ahead.”

Clark broke the news to her Lib­eral cau­cus in Pen­tic­ton where mem­bers had gath­ered to pre­pare for their new po­lit­i­cal roles in Op­po­si­tion af­ter 16 years as govern­ment.

An emo­tional Rich Cole­man, a for­mer cabi­net min­is­ter in the Lib­eral govern­ment, said Clark stepped aside to al­low the party to elect a new leader and be­gin a process of re­newal.

The party ex­ec­u­tive now has 28 days to set a date and plan for a lead­er­ship vote, said Cole­man, who will serve as in­terim leader.

“I’ve never worked with any­one with more pas­sion and love, strength of lead­er­ship and man­age­ment in my en­tire life,” he said. “What she’s given this prov­ince should never be for­got­ten. It’s a tough day for our fam­ily, our B.C. Lib­eral fam­ily.”

For­mer Lib­eral cabi­net min­is­ter Terry Lake said Clark likely strug­gled with her choice but de­cided to put the growth of the party ahead of her re­mark­able po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

“Given the re­sults of the elec­tion and the mood … of Bri­tish Columbia, and prob­a­bly within the party and the cau­cus, she thought that her step­ping aside would be the best thing for all the peo­ple in­volved,” he said in an in­ter­view.

For­mer cabi­net min­is­ter Bill Ben­nett said Clark could have stayed as leader, but he un­der­stands her choice to make room for re­newal.

“I’m not happy about the de­ci­sion,” he said. “I wish she had hung on, but I un­der­stand why she thinks it’s bet­ter for the party to have fresh lead­er­ship.”

Clark, 51, led a come-frombe­hind vic­tory in 2013, sweep­ing her party to a sur­prise win over the New Democrats who held a 20-point lead in the polls at the start of the cam­paign.

But she couldn’t pull off a ma­jor­ity govern­ment in the elec­tion this May, win­ning 43 of 87 seats in the leg­is­la­ture, one short of a ma­jor­ity.

The Lib­eral govern­ment lost a con­fi­dence vote at the end of June.

Clark said that when she of­fered her res­ig­na­tion to Lt.-Gov. Ju­dith Gui­chon, she tried to con­vince Gui­chon to call an elec­tion. In­stead, the lieu­tenant-gover­nor asked New Demo­crat Leader John Hor­gan to form a govern­ment. The New Democrats, with 41 seats, formed a mi­nor­ity govern­ment with the sup­port of the Greens, who won three seats. Hor­gan and his cabi­net were sworn in last week.

Hor­gan said in a state­ment that Clark was a ded­i­cated ser­vant of the prov­ince.

“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.”

Green party Leader An­drew Weaver is­sued a state­ment thank­ing Clark for her ser­vice, call­ing her a fierce ad­vo­cate for the prov­ince both at home and abroad.

“A high­light of my time in the leg­is­la­ture was work­ing di­rectly with Christy Clark to im­ple­ment sex­u­al­ized vi­o­lence pol­icy leg­is­la­tion for B.C.’s post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions,” he said.

“Her lead­er­ship and will­ing­ness to work across party lines on this vi­tal is­sue has made uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges across this prov­ince safer for our stu­dents, and for this I am grate­ful.”

Clark 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 to spend more time with her fam­ily.

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.

Her govern­ment be­came known across Canada for con­sec­u­tive sur­plus bud­gets while other prov­inces strug­gled with deficits.

Clark faced the prospect of sit­ting on the Op­po­si­tion benches, and was likely to be re­minded of her ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies that led to a lengthy le­gal bat­tle that ended with a Supreme Court of Canada vic­tory for teach­ers in Novem­ber 2016.

The Clark govern­ment’s ap­proval of the $8.8-bil­lion Site C dam project is also likely to be the fo­cus of much de­bate as the NDP govern­ment plans to sub­mit the project to a re­view process.

Lake said it must have up­set Clark to walk away from the po­lit­i­cal bat­tles loom­ing on the hori­zon.

“Suc­cess is not for quit­ters,” Clark’s govern­ment said in a Fe­bru­ary 2016 throne speech.



Christy Clark ar­rives at B.C. Leg­is­la­ture be­fore a con­fi­dence vote in Vic­to­ria on June 29. Clark, who served as B.C. pre­mier for six and a half years, has in­formed her cau­cus that she will re­sign as Lib­eral party leader on Aug. 4.

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