Despite a tough fight to win the riding of Vancouver-Point Grey in Wednesday's by-election, Premier Christy Clark says she isn't sure she will run there again in a provincial election that could come as early as this fall.
"I don't know," Ms. Clark told reporters in Victoria on Thursday morning in response to questions.
Ms. Clark does not live in the riding, but is thinking of moving there. She said it's a complicated proposition for family reasons.
"It's something I'm thinking about. I'm not sure what the future is going to hold, and, again, I don't know when a general election might be."
There has been much speculation that Ms. Clark will call an election this fall, and the Premier has not ruled it out.
David Eby, Ms. Clark's NDP rival in the riding, and party leader Adrian Dix were dumbfounded when told, while attending a joint news conference in Mr. Eby's Kitsilano campaign office, that Ms. Clark was wavering in her commitment to the riding.
"I would say, 'Wow,' " said Mr. Dix, noting Ms. Clark cast herself as part of the community, and wanted to represent it.
Mr. Dix called the news the "HST of candidacy decisions," comparing the situation to how the B.C. Liberals opposed harmonizing the provincial sales tax with the federal goods and services tax before the 2009 election, but embraced the idea as policy after winning a third majority.
Mr. Eby said Ms. Clark's musings were "outrageous," and noted his campaign did not challenge Ms. Clark's level of commitment to the riding because they understood it as a given.
Mr. Eby is on leave from his post as executive director of B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and considering whether to devote himself full time to politics and position himself for another run in the riding.
He said Ms. Clark's comments were incentive to come off the fence, and make the commitment. "It boggles my mind," he said.
Colin Hansen, the former finance minister and chair of Ms. Clark's by-election campaign, said in an interview he was not aware of the Premier's comments, but that she had the latitude to depart the riding in a general election.
"I am not aware of what she has said, but she certainly has every right to say that," he said, noting that Gordon Campbell did not have a seat in the Legislature when he became party leader and ran in the Vancouver-Quilchena riding (which Mr. Hansen now holds) and said he would probably run elsewhere.
Mr. Hansen said Ms. Clark's residency never arose as an issue while he was knocking on doors on her behalf, nor did volunteers say they heard about it.
Mr. Hansen's riding has been touted as an option for the Premier, but Mr. Hansen said he is planning to seek another term, so it is not available.
However, he said, Ms. Clark could find another Vancouver riding. "Any riding association would love to have her as a candidate," he said.
After being sworn in as Premier in March, Ms. Clark, returning to politics after a six-year absence, needed a seat and called a by-election for May 11 when Mr. Campbell stepped down in Vancouver-Point Grey, which he had represented since 1996.
Ms. Clark had always acknowledged it would be a tough race. Mr. Eby was actually in the lead at times during the vote counts on Wednesday night.
Ms. Clark won the riding by 595 votes for a 48.9 per cent share compared with 44.97 per cent for Mr. Eby, according to preliminary results from Elections B.C. While Ms. Clark's total is close to Mr. Campbell's 50 per cent share in 2009, the NDP share jumped from 40 per cent.
Although the New Democrats were defeated, Mr. Dix was as ebullient on Thursday as if his party had won, and seized on the shift as a virtual victory. "We're inspired by our result here," he told reporters.
Mr. Hansen and Ms. Clark noted that Mr. Dix was in the odd position of being the first leader of the opposition in 30 years whose party did not win in a by-election. Mr. Dix said the situation was unusual because Ms. Clark was the first premier in longer than that to run in a by-election and had abundant tactical advantages including timing the vote, and government resources.
In Victoria, Ms. Clark acknowledged Vancouver-Point Grey was a risky seat to take on, but said it was her only option because Mr. Campbell was leaving politics so the seat was available.
"I wanted to get into the Legislature as soon as I could, and that was the seat that was open. Other premiers might have, or other people might have, decided they wanted to ask someone in a safe seat to resign.
"I preferred doing it the less expensive, more sensible way and taking maybe the riskier route as a result."