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B.C. Premier Christy Clark sits in a fuel-cell powered Mercedes in Vancouver after the auto maker chose the city as the site of a new production plant on March 17, 2011. (JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
B.C. Premier Christy Clark sits in a fuel-cell powered Mercedes in Vancouver after the auto maker chose the city as the site of a new production plant on March 17, 2011. (JOHN LEHMANN/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Letter from B.C.

When will Christy Clark pull the trigger? Add to ...

Moe Sihota, president of the B.C. New Democratic Party, was in a car this week driving north on Highway 1, heading into the province's interior. His mission: to help get the party organized on the ground in key swing ridings.

The next B.C. election isn't supposed to come for another two years, but the NDP is anticipating that newly-minted Premier Christy Clark will drop the writ before the May, 2013, date currently set in law.

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How soon? Not too soon.

Ms. Clark, who was elected by her party on Feb. 26, says she wants to seek an early mandate from the public. But first she plans to win a seat in the legislature in a by-election this spring. She also has ruled out a snap election while her main opponents, the New Democrats, are in the process of choosing their new leader. That vote is set for April 17. Finally, Ms. Clark has promised to hold a referendum on the harmonized sales tax on June 24.

"It could happen any time after the HST referendum, because of that we are starting up preparations," Mr. Sihota said.

British Columbians discourage summer elections - it doesn't do much for citizen engagement - so the first real window for a general election is in September. And September is, most likely, Mr. Sihota's election-readiness target.

"We are working with the ridings to make sure they are organizationally sound, that they have the resources necessary to run capable and credible campaigns and we are in the process of candidate recruitment."

Six months ago the governing B.C. Liberal Party was sitting at record lows in the polls. The party is now re-energized following a leadership contest that brought in 60,000 new members - and enriched thanks to the significant new sources of fundraising generated by the contest.

Still, Ms. Clark will need to persuade her caucus and party that an early campaign is advantageous. She's appointed a well-regarded pollster as her principle secretary - and she is sure to have an ear to the ground to decide when the time is right.

 

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