B.C. New Democrats have launched a fundraising drive to raise cash to fight Premier designate Christy Clark if she seeks to get into the legislature through a by-election in Vancouver Point-Grey.
Departing Premier Gordon Campbell, the riding's MLA since 1996, has said he would be happy to quit the riding so Ms. Clark could get a seat in the house after a six-year absence from provincial politics.
Ms. Clark, a former deputy premier and education minister, has alluded to some personal connections in the riding such as her son going to school there, but not made any specific commitments on her by-election plans since winning the BC Liberal leadership on Feb. 26th.
An e-mail alert from the NDP Tuesday seeks a "special $100 by-election donation" to "get a successful by-election campaign up and running in Vancouver-Grey," adding: "Don't let Christy Clark off the hook."
The party's provincial secretary said the expected by-election marks the first chance for voters to "send a message" to the governing Liberals since the introduction of the controversial harmonized sales tax after the 2009 election where Liberals ruled it out.
"We want to be able to run a strong campaign there," said Jan O'Brien, noting a search is underway for a candidate.
She said the party is appealing to New Democrats across the province for support, and that this is just the beginning of fundraising efforts.
Ms. O'Brien said there will be no concessions to Ms. Clark as a new leader seeking access to the legislature, but rather a "strong campaign" attacking Ms. Clark's depictions of herself as an agent of change, and allowing voters to protest the HST.
"We'll make a big effort to win the seat," she said. "It's an important opportunity to test Christy Clark and what it is she stands for."
But at least one possible NDP candidate says the party should save its resources for the next general election instead of trying to block Ms. Clark in the riding.
"It would be pretty tough to beat a new leader, and I am not even sure it's the right battle to have," Patti Bacchus, chairperson of the Vancouver School Board, said in an interview.
"The appropriate thing may be just to let her have it at this point and look to a general election as the time for people to really challenge (her)."
Ms. Bacchus, who has family roots in the riding, said she has received many calls urging her to run, and has not completely said no to the idea.
"But it's not a priority for me right now. I have agreed to, at least, think about it," she said.
Mel Lehan, a retired teacher and community activist who twice ran against Mr. Campbell due to anger over various cutbacks and policies of the BC Liberal government, said he wasn't inclined to run again.
"I just think it just might be time to have somebody else here running. It's not 100 per cent sure I won't run. I'd like to see if we can find somebody who is really going to be good," he said.
He said he could see arguments on both sides for contesting or not contesting the seat, noting it would be gesture of goodwill to allow Ms. Clark easy access to the legislature.
But Bill Tieleman, a former aide to ex-NDP premier Glen Clark now at the forefront of the anti-HST movement, said Ms. Clark should be challenged.
"All parties should run candidates against her," he said. "Christy Clark is running to represent a particular ideological perspective, which is shared by many people in British Columbia and opposed by others so why wouldn't you have a contest?
"Why would people who don't agree with Christy Clark's philosophy in Point Grey be deprived of an opportunity to express that? That's not democracy in my view."
He said it would be "fun" to run against Ms. Clark, raising questions about such matters as the BC Rail case and child poverty. "Am I going to be the guy that does it? Probably not."
Mr. Tieleman said he suspects the delay in a by-election-plan announcement by Ms. Clark is linked to the ongoing polling underway to help her reach a decision.
Ms. Clark's spokesman said there would be no comment Tuesday on the situation.
In 1994, rookie Liberal leader Gordon Campbell won a seat - and entry into the legislature - in Vancouver-Quilchena, now held by Finance Minister Colin Hansen. In 1996, Mr. Campbell switched to Vancouver-Point Grey, which he won in that year, in 2001, 2005 and 2009. In 2009, he won over Mr. Lehan with 50.2 per cent of the vote compared to 40.5 per cent of the vote.
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