Premier Christy Clark said a number of her caucus members have offered to step aside so she can run in a by-election. And the Liberal Leader said it’s possible she could seek a seat outside Metro Vancouver.
Fresh from her smashing electoral upset on Tuesday, and en route to the United States for a private holiday with her son, Hamish, Ms. Clark sat down at the airport with The Globe and Mail to lay out her plans for the first 100 days in office. It’s an ambitious agenda that includes hardening up plans for a critical trade mission to Asia, beginning a conversation with the province’s labour leaders aimed at creating a new era of co-operation, refreshing her jobs plan, swearing in a cabinet and tabling a budget.
But her first priority, she said, is finding a way into the legislature.
“I’ve had a number of offers already from caucus members all over the province,” said the Premier, who lost in her own riding of Vancouver-Point Grey on election night. “These are people who have sent me notes or called and said: ‘I’m prepared to step down.’ ”
Asked if she felt she needed to find a seat in Vancouver where she lives or even the Lower Mainland, Ms. Clark replied: “No, I don’t. You know, Tommy Douglas ran in Burnaby [for the NDP], John A. Macdonald represented Victoria [for the Conservatives]. So, to me, I’m the Premier of the whole province and one of the reasons I lost my own riding is because I was working so hard for the whole province. But I just haven’t made a decision yet.”
Ms. Clark would not identify the caucus members who have put their names forward.
The Premier said final ballot counting will be done by May 27, and the writ is returned to Victoria on June 5. She’d like to have her new cabinet sworn in between those two dates. Ms. Clark said her government has until the end of September to bring in a new budget. If she doesn’t call a summer session to deal with that and other matters, there will definitely be a fall sitting.
Meantime, the Premier said work is already under way on a revitalized jobs plan, with particular attention being paid to skills training – ironically the centrepiece of the NDP election platform. But she said the province also needs to nail down important deals with companies eager to extract and export liquefied natural gas from large deposits in northern B.C.
To that end, she said staff is already planning a vital trade mission, tentatively scheduled to touch down in China, Japan and Korea, in a bid to close essential LNG deals – ones on which the Premier has effectively staked the economic future of the province.
Clearly emboldened by the mandate she’s been given, Ms. Clark said she’s also aiming for a new relationship with public- and private-sector unions.
“Now a lot of them may not have voted for me, but I can tell you that I’m going to do more to protect their jobs and make their bargaining units bigger than anyone else would have, including the NDP,” the Premier said. “Because I’m going to grow the economy, those mining unions, those steelworkers at forests mills, those guys are going to do well in the next four years.”
Ms. Clark said she knows the unions backed her opponent, but that doesn’t matter. “The only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner,” she said. Consequently, she wants to sit down with the province’s top union heads and “begin a conversation that begins with: ‘I know you backed the other guy but there’s no reason we can’t put that behind us and find ways to work together.’ ”
She’s hoping that these efforts at détente will extend to the province’s obdurate teachers’ union. The Premier said she is more determined than ever to pursue a 10-year labour deal with the teachers because, she said, that’s what voters on the campaign trail told her they wanted to see. And she thinks the strong mandate strengthens her hand in her efforts to get such an unprecedented pact.
“We have four years ahead of us now to get this stuff done,” she said. “We’re going to need to work with each other.”