Premier Christy Clark says she will bring back the legislature this summer to pass the government’s balanced budget and also pursue a 10-year labour deal with teachers she says voters have given her a mandate to achieve.
Ms. Clark outlined both goals Thursday in a speech to B.C. Liberal candidates – successful and unsuccessful – that was open to the media. It was the first gathering of her caucus since the May 14 provincial election.
“If any of you thought the last 28 days was hard, now comes the hard part because the people of British Columbia have entrusted us with a tremendous responsibility and we have an obligation to deliver on that responsibility,” a beaming Ms. Clark told supporters in a meeting room at a downtown hotel.
The Premier has said she would not reconvene the legislature until she was able to sit in it as an MLA.
During last week’s election, she was defeated in her Vancouver-Point Grey riding, which means she will have to run in a by-election after another Liberal steps down.
However, Ms. Clark had little to say during either her speech or a subsequent news conference about which riding she will choose or whether any members have offered her their ridings.
She has said she is waiting for final results from various ballot counts in ridings before making or announcing any decisions on her options.
Prior to the election, Ms. Clark – a former education minister – had advanced the idea of trying to negotiate a 10-year collective agreement with the province’s teachers. However, the proposal was dismissed by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation as an election ploy.
Ms. Clark said she is going to advance it anew. “We want labour peace for our kids in schools,” she said. “We always have acrimony and when we have acrimony, kids lose. We can get that acrimony out of the classroom and wait 10 years until we start bargaining again.”
Ms. Clark opened her speech with a cheery, “We did it,” earning cheers from the 85 candidates in the room as she suggested the re-election of the Liberals for a fourth straight majority mandate proved the pundits wrong.
Going into the campaign, many observers had written off the Liberals because of polls that suggested the opposition New Democrats had a lead of up to 20 points.
But when the votes were counted, the Liberals had won 50 seats, and the New Democrats 33 seats. There was one seat for the Green Party and one Independent elected.
Critics have said the former deputy premier, elected as B.C. Liberal Leader in early 2011 after several years working as a radio talk-show host, has been more inclined to campaign than actually govern.
But in her remarks Thursday she specifically said she relished the prospect of four years without an election in sight. Under provincial legislation, the next vote will be held in May 2017. “It means we’re going to get some time to deliver on the things we said we would do,” she said.
Among other things, Ms. Clark has committed to a balanced budget, the 10-year deal with teachers, advances in the development of the liquefied natural gas sector and sticking by five conditions for supporting such heavy oil projects as the Northern Gateway pipeline, including a “fair share” of fiscal benefits.
Ms. Clark warned the government is going to hold the line on spending. “There will be calls to spend money. For the next little while, our answer to most of those questions will have to be ‘No. Not now.’”
She added, “It’s difficult to say no, but we have a mandate from the people of British Columbia to make sure that we’re controlling government spending. It’s what we promised we would do.”
Earlier this week, NDP Leader Adrian Dix promised the 33 elected New Democrats would provide strong opposition to the government.