Another B.C. Liberal has abruptly quit caucus, but Premier Christy Clark is dismissing suggestions of chaos in her ranks as MLAs are pressed to declare whether they are ready to run in a possible fall election.
Indeed, Ms. Clark – who gave Iain Black a high-profile farewell on Wednesday – did not back off on rallying her party for a looming vote, even though such pressures may have partly led to the resignation last week of attorney-general Barry Penner.
"We have a responsibility to make sure that we are ready for an election, and so we're in that process now of making sure we're ready," she told reporters, flanked by Mr. Black, who is quitting as Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA to become president and CEO of the Vancouver Board of Trade.
Ms. Clark, who returned to politics by winning the B.C. Liberal leadership in February, noted that when she co-chaired the 2001 election campaign for the Liberals, she was on the assignment a year before the vote. "So you can never, never be too ready," she said.
The next B.C. election isn't supposed to be held until May, 2013, but Ms. Clark sought the leadership of the B.C. Liberals promising to seek her own mandate if she won.
During the news conference, she initially said she did not know whether other Liberal MLAs would decide not to run, then said many have indicated a "strong desire" to run. She also said no other MLAs have, at this point, told her they are leaving.
Liberals were caught off guard last week when Mr. Penner quit, ending a 15-year career in provincial politics.
The former environment minister said he was under pressure to commit to a re-election bid in his Chilliwack-Hope riding, but decided to get out in order to spend more time with his young family.
Ms. Clark commented on Mr. Penner's departure in an abruptly called news conference held at a golf course, but on Wednesday offered a more leisurely and considered goodbye to Mr. Black at her Vancouver cabinet offices, which framed the situation in more managed terms.
"Whether or not we had an election, Iain Black's opportunity to take over as president of the board of trade would have come," she said, adding it wasn't a decision she could influence.
The Premier sidestepped the question of whether a general election might negate the need for a by-election in Mr. Black's riding, noting a by-election must be held within six months. In 2009, Mr. Black won the seat by 2,279 votes over his NDP rival.
"It's hard when you lose good people, but there are other good people who want to seek public office as well," Ms. Clark said.
"I am sure that between Iain and I we can find someone who can step up in his riding and continue to make the kind of difference he did. But no one expects politicians to do this forever, and I don't think people want us to do it forever."
Mr. Black, currently parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said he told Ms. Clark about his plans on Monday morning, 12 hours after formally accepting the offer from the board of trade. He starts his new job on Oct. 3.
"I was not looking for a change, I think it is important to point out. I was very, very flattered and very humbled when I was approached by the Vancouver Board of Trade," he said, adding the new job will allow him to spend more time with his family.
Mr. Black said it would be a "mistake" to interpret his exit as abandoning his colleagues, Ms. Clark or the government.
Ms. Clark pointed out that two members of the B.C. NDP caucus have said they would not be running in the next election. "It's a pretty common feature of politics wherever you are in the electoral cycle," she said.
On another subject, Ms. Clark said her government would respond to the results of the HST referendum, expected this Friday, by carrying out the instructions of B.C. voters on the tax.