B.C. Premier Christy Clark has studiously kept her distance from former premier Gordon Campbell, but has been unable this week to escape her Liberal predecessor’s chief of staff, one of the architects of his three majority wins.
In a move that stunned many political observers, the taciturn Martyn Brown, an aide and chief of staff to Mr. Campbell over 13 years, has released a book on B.C. politics that accuses Ms. Clark of uncertain and shaky leadership and says she is taking her party to likely defeat in the provincial election next May.
“Unfortunately for B.C. Liberals, Premier Clark has steered her government along an erratic course. She has edged her way forward by bumping against public opinion and by scraping against each new hazard, and then veering away in whatever direction seems to be safest,” he writes in Towards a New Government in British Columbia, released as an e-book on Amazon this week.
On Wednesday, Ms. Clark was sanguine about the situation, saying she would not read the book. “I was elected leader in 2011 because I am different from my predecessor,” she told reporters in Parksville when asked about Mr. Brown’s book.
Others were less dismissive.
“It shows a disjuncture between the party that Martyn Brown served, and the current party under Christy Clark,” said political scientist Norman Ruff.
Mr. Ruff, an observer of B.C. politics for more than 40 years, said that he has never seen anything like this.
“It’s astounding, because for all the years he spent in the shadows, he has now stepped out into the spotlight,” said Mr. Ruff, a professor emeritus at the University of Victoria.
Mr. Brown was ever at Mr. Campbell’s side, but rarely said anything for publication or broadcast.
He was a mystery to even his own party. One well-connected B.C. Liberal said even many party members could not have picked Mr. Brown out of the crowd on a convention stage.
“They would be familiar with his reputation. They would recognize his name as an influential architect of the policies during the time Gordon Campbell was premier,” the Liberal said on condition of anonymity.
The Liberal said he was hard-pressed to figure out how the book would affect B.C. politics because he had not yet read it. However, he noted that Ms. Clark has tried to distance herself from her predecessor.
In 2010, Mr. Campbell announced Mr. Brown would leave his job as chief of staff to become a deputy tourism minister in a shakeup of cabinet and the bureaucracy as the premier tried to deal with the furor over the harmonized sales tax. Mr. Brown has since left government.
Mr. Campbell left politics in early 2011 after Ms. Clark, whom Mr. Campbell had recruited as an MLA candidate and appointed deputy premier and education minister, returned to politics and won the leadership.
Since then, Ms. Clark has seen the Liberals fall far behind the opposition New Democrats in the polls as she tried to gain political traction with a jobs agenda, efforts to tie policies into a families-first agenda and, most recently, challenging Alberta and Ottawa for a better deal from the $6-billion Northern Gateway pipeline.
A spokesman for the party declined comment on the book.
Mr. Brown said he had read Ms. Clark’s comment to the media and doubted the book would catch her attention, but that other B.C. Liberals might be interested.
Mr. Brown, who remains a Liberal but is out of active politics, said on Wednesday that he hoped that his broader views would find attention.
“There are aspects of the book that were written for whoever forms the next government, and anybody that was filling the positions such as I had or were in cabinet. Those messages are intended to say … this is some of what I have learned the hard way in many cases,” he said.
“I am trying to share those messages in a constructive way that live on and that might resonate beyond the election, and I think they are not time sensitive.”