Re­plac­ing Clark ur­gent mat­ter for B.C. Lib­er­als

Windsor Star - - CANADA - JACK HAUEN

In the af­ter­math of the Bri­tish Columbia elec­tion, ex­perts say two things are clear for the pro­vin­cial Lib­er­als: It was the throne speech that doomed for­mer leader Christy Clark; and her re­place­ment had bet­ter come quick.

“I think it speaks vol­umes to Christy Clark’s feisti­ness and never-say-die at­ti­tude as a politi­cian that we would even ask (why she re­signed)," said Kathryn Har­ri­son, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, who pointed out that nor­mally, a party leader ahead in the polls and at the head of a strong econ­omy go­ing into an elec­tion would step down upon los­ing.

But ul­ti­mately, it’s that at­ti­tude that led Clark to present a throne speech that adopted many of her op­po­nents’ poli­cies in a last-ditch at­tempt to pry away sup­port from an im­mi­nent NDP/Green party takeover.

“How ef­fec­tive could she be as leader of the op­po­si­tion in op­pos­ing poli­cies that she had just em­braced?” Har­ri­son said.

Now, the at­ten­tion turns to find­ing Clark’s re­place­ment. There’s no short­age of “known quan­ti­ties,” said Har­ri­son and Maxwell Cameron, who also teaches po­lit­i­cal science at UBC. They in­clude for­mer Min­is­ter of Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion An­drew Wilkin­son, for­mer Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment Mary Po­lak and for­mer Van­cou­ver mayor Sam Sul­li­van, who is cur­rently the Lib­eral MLA for Van­cou­ver-False Creek.

Kevin Fal­con, who lost the lead­er­ship bid to Clark in 2011 by a 52-48 per cent mar­gin, could also re­turn, though he has been ab­sent from pol­i­tics since then. He pre­vi­ously held the po­si­tions of Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion and In­fra­struc­ture, Min­is­ter of State for Dereg­u­la­tion and Min­is­ter of Health.

Dianne Watts, the for­mer Sur­rey mayor turned fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive In­fra­struc­ture Critic, is sure to be get­ting some calls. The Lib­er­als lost ground in Metro Van­cou­ver and Sur­rey in the May 9 elec­tion to the more city-focused NDP, and could look for can­di­dates who would bet­ter their chances there.

Among the new faces who could take over is Rich­mond MLA and for­mer tele­vi­sion reporter Jas Jo­hal. He is “to­tally in­ex­pe­ri­enced in pol­i­tics,” said Har­ri­son, but has name recog­ni­tion and could give the party an edge in deal­ing with the me­dia. He is the first so far to pub­licly muse about run­ning.

Who­ever they elect, Har­ri­son said the party would be wise to do it soon — the like­li­hood of a snap elec­tion be­fore 2021 is higher with a frag­ile coali­tion gov­ern­ment in power.

“Over time, it wouldn’t be sur­pris­ing if re­la­tions be­tween the NDP and Green frayed,” she said. “At a cer­tain point, if ei­ther of those par­ties feel like they’ll do bet­ter in a new elec­tion, they can pull the plug.”

The Lib­er­als also need some­one to fill the seat Clark va­cated in West­sideKelowna. It should be a fairly safe one, but un­til it’s filled, the seat bal­ance shifts from 44-43 in favour of the NDP/ Green coali­tion to 44-42. By law, Pre­mier John Hor­gan has six months to call a by­elec­tion for the seat. Un­til then, his gov­ern­ment will be able to pass bills with­out re­ly­ing on the speaker cast­ing the tiebreak­ing vote.

But drag­ging out that time­line opens the door for the Lib­er­als to ac­cuse Hor­gan of play­ing pol­i­tics, and leav­ing West Kelowna with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion.


Ob­servers sug­gest the clock started tick­ing on Christy Clark’s time as leader of the B.C. Lib­er­als when she lost her grip on power after an elec­tion and then pre­sented a throne speech that echoed many of her op­po­nents’ po­si­tions.

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