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George Heyman during a press conference March 20, 2006 where he announced a tentative four-year agreement reached in public service talks with the government. (JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail)
George Heyman during a press conference March 20, 2006 where he announced a tentative four-year agreement reached in public service talks with the government. (JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail)

Clark seeks star candidates to add lustre to B.C. campaign Add to ...

It’s been a long time since a poll offered any good news for the BC Liberals, but Premier Christy Clark is bullish about attracting new candidates to run for the governing party as it seeks a fourth term in the 2013 provincial election.

The Liberals are running behind the New Democrats. Their centre-right coalition is being split by a surge in support for the BC Conservatives. Many suggest the BC Liberals are headed for opposition.

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Yet Ms. Clark said Monday the Liberals have identified some promising candidates, and some have approached her about running for the party.

“[They] are really genuine star candidates – people who bring a breadth of experience from across the sector, whether that’s the private sector, the non-profit sector, the academic sector,” Ms. Clark told reporters at an unrelated news conference. “I am very hopeful and confident that we will put together a great team of people. We are going to renew the BC Liberal team going into this election.”

She declined to identify the political prospects, but said some details will emerge in coming months.

The Premier was commenting in the context of the battle in Liberal-held Vancouver-Fairview, where political heavyweights George Heyman, former head of the BC Government Employees Union, and Vancouver city Councillor Geoff Meggs are trying to win the provincial NDP nomination to be decided at a party meeting in October.

Asked about interest levels among Liberals for securing nominations, Ms. Clark said, “I wouldn’t necessarily qualify government union leaders as star candidates, so I am hoping we can find some people who are real stars out there.”

There are now 46 Liberals in the 85-seat legislature. It isn’t yet clear how many won’t run for re-election, but a party official said the expectation is that the picture will become clearer soon and most necessary nominations will be done by the end of the year.

The official, speaking on background, said the party is expecting “natural attrition” as some members step down. The Liberals have governed B.C. since 2001, meaning some members are facing the prospect of committing to a fourth term.

In one respect, the Liberals and the NDP are in a similar position. The Liberals are planning to target seats they didn’t win and the NDP is planning to do the same, with NDP Leader Adrian Dix restating on Monday his interest in running strong candidates in Liberal seats.

Mr. Dix said he thought this approach helped the NDP win recent by-elections in Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope. He said he has high hopes of winning seats in Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm, among other locations. “What I am focused on, especially, is running strong campaigns everywhere in province, but most especially in the seats that we haven’t previously held,” he said.

Two of 36 NDP MLAs – Mike Sather in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows and Dawn Black in New Westminster – have said they are not seeking re-election. Former union leader Judy Darcy has won the nomination in New Westminster. Elsewhere, the party has nominated 22 of the 49 seats it needs to run candidates in, a spokesperson said. (There are three independents in the legislature.)

Mr. Dix said the party accelerated its nomination process last year when Ms. Clark was musing about a possible snap election to secure her own mandate. Of the contest in Vancouver-Fairview, Mr. Dix said, “It says there is real momentum on our side.”

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