B.C. Premier Christy Clark, fresh from winning a majority mandate with 25 new MLAs, says she now feels as if she owns her government after two years of running the province with a caucus elected under her predecessor.
Ms. Clark, who is looking for another seat after being defeated in her riding, said she now is free to advance on issues including the economy and the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal largely because the new caucus committed to and ran on a platform of her making.
“It’s a vision that I set for our party, for our province and our candidates. They’re all a part of it. So I think we’re all going to be rowing in the same direction from now on,” she said at a post-election news conference on Wednesday.
In an echo of the 28-day campaign, Ms. Clark reminded reporters of the pieces of that plan: growing the economy, keeping taxes low, saying yes to economic development, and controlling government spending.
Ms. Clark said a “fantastic balance” of 25 returning MLAs and 25 new ones offers a mix of renewal and experience.
Ms. Clark succeeded Gordon Campbell as B.C. Liberal leader, taking command of the team he led through the 2009 election. “It’s easier when you’re leading your own team,” she said. “It was a tough few years for lots of those folks. I came in after there had been a whole lot of turmoil in the party.”
One member of that team is veteran MLA Gordon Hogg, re-elected in Surrey-White Rock. He said Ms. Clark’s “relentless campaigning” made the difference in an election many expected the Liberals to lose to the NDP.
“Now she has a group of new members as well, to put a new face on her government – and she’s full in control of it. It’s been a bit of a challenge for the past two years because she didn’t have a mandate from the public, as she does now – and I think that bodes well for us as a party and a government.”
While Ms. Clark said her government will “immediately” get back to work, the return of the legislature will have to wait until she secures a seat. Ms. Clark, defeated in Vancouver-Point Grey, said she has yet to talk to any MLA about stepping down to allow her to run in a by-election, and that those conversations will not take place until results are official on May 27.
She said she will meet with her new and re-elected MLAs next week. On the Northern Gateway project, she said she is awaiting further responses on her five conditions, including a fair share of fiscal and economic benefits and successful completion of the formal environmental review process. “The five conditions aren’t going to change,” she said. “I’m hopeful other governments will decide they want to engage on this now that we have a clear mandate from the people.”
The federal Conservative government has set the shipment of Canadian energy to Asia as a priority. Ms. Clark said she spoke to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday, but they did not talk about major issues.
Ms. Clark also spoke to Alberta Premier Alison Redford, with whom she has had a frosty relationship due to differences over the pipeline. The B.C. Premier’s office confirmed a cordial congratulatory call from Ms. Redford. Ms. Clark also spoke to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.
One key issue for Ms. Clark will likely be renaming her party. She told an editorial board of The Globe and Mail earlier this month that this was a priority for early in a new mandate. “The problem with the name ‘Liberal’ is that it’s not inclusive enough, because there is a federal party that shares the name. But we’ll worry about that after the election.” She said she had no preference about a name.
The Premier seemed to enjoy teasing journalists about the polls, encouraging them to talk more to voters than pollsters.
She said polls do not tell how people are going to vote. “It’s like me asking you what you’re going to have for dinner a month from now. Maybe it’s chicken. Maybe it’s steak. I don’t know. And you don’t know either. Your decision could change before then.”
One of the surprises of the news conference was Ms. Clark’s fond words for NDP Leader Adrian Dix, whom she and her party hammered throughout the campaign. “He was a tough competitor and an incredibly hard worker,” she said. “Coming out of this campaign, he earned my respect.”
With a report from Mark Hume in Vancouver