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B.C. Liberals try to pump up candidates for ‘close election’ at boot camp

FILE PHOTO: British Columbia Premier Christy Clark during a news conference in Vancouver September 24, 2012 following the resignation of her chief of staff.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

B .C. Premier Christy Clark took some campaign themes out for a test drive Saturday morning, delivering an election-style speech to hundreds of party workers and candidates at a campaign-college event – the last such gathering before the May 14 election.

"This is, have no doubt about it, going to be a hard fought, close election, but every election can be won," said Ms. Clark.

The B.C. Liberals, seeking a fourth term, have been running behind the opposition NDP in the polls, but the governing party sought Saturday to show they were ready for a come-from-behind fight.

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Ms. Clark delivered her speech, which hit familiar themes from speeches this week selling her government's budget, but did not take questions from reporters who were left to chase her through the complex to an elevator seeking an elaboration on her points.

Ms. Clark has talked of the looming election as a clash of "values," and talked Saturday of fiscal prudence as one. "For us, as a basic core value, we believe in balancing the budget," she said.

Ms. Clark talked up the values of her late parents, touting her schoolteacher dad's decision, for example, to prepay his funeral expenses. She also spoke about the development of the Liquid Natural gas fund with its associated prosperity fund.

As she spoke, Ms. Clark was flanked by rookie candidates and incumbents on a stage in a downtown hotel ballroom. Each of the roughly 60 candidates were given a few seconds to introduce themselves as they entered. They are 85 ridings in the province. Ms. Clark defended the delays, saying the party was taking its time choosing the best possible candidates.

Behind closed doors, candidates were being tutored throughout Saturday's one-day assembly in tactics and procedures for the campaign, such as tracking voters and the use of social media. They're also aiming to compare best practices.

Energy Minister Rich Coleman said the focus of Saturday was motivating the party workers. "This is about our people today," he said. "Our folks are very motivated, obviously, to be here, but you build on it."

Despite the suggestion of grim prospects for the party raised by the polls, Mr. Coleman said the candidates are likely more hopeful. "When you're putting your name on the line, you're optimistic to begin with," he said.

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Peter Fassbender, the three-term mayor of the city of Langley who is running in Surrey-Fleetwood, said he's been in politics long enough that there isn't much for him to learn, but that his campaign team would pick up some good ideas.

As Liberals were gathered in downtown Vancouver, the B.C. NDP's roughly 75 nominated candidates, and volunteers were meeting at a Burnaby hotel for their own campaign school. Party Leader Adrian Dix is to wrap up the two-day gathering Sunday with a speech.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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