This week, Premier Christy Clark is busy taking out the trash. Four announcements to address growing concerns about a faltering justice system, a sortie with teachers and even a patch for a vexing little dispute about liquor laws in theatres.
On Monday, she starts the week with a faux Throne Speech – actually a brief statement delivered from a comfy chair in the radio studio where she worked up until a year ago. She hopes by then to have a clean platform to launch an agenda with her own brand.
The statement will come during a 90-minute radio interview with Bill Good on CKNW that marks the beginning of the spring legislature session. But it’s also timely as Ms. Clark prepares to call two by-elections. Both Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope are typically solid BC Liberal ridings, but support for Ms. Clark’s party is being eroded both by the nascent BC Conservatives and Adrian Dix’s New Democrats.
Ms. Clark has been increasingly vocal about the fact that she has spent the better part of her first year in office cleaning up messes left behind by the previous occupant. Managing the fallout from the botched harmonized sales tax has overshadowed much of her efforts to date, but lately Ms. Clark has been tackling other lingering problems.
This will allow her to roll out some good news that might gain traction. Watch for a policy to reshape the carbon tax – but only after the final scheduled increase is imposed this summer. A strategy to ease the transition from the HST, aimed particularly at home builders, is also a likely bet.
Ms. Clark tried to take back the agenda last fall when she announced her jobs plan, but her party continued to fall in the polls. A renewed housekeeping effort started in January.
There was the crisis in Community Living, the agency that serves adults with developmental disabilities. For that the Premier scrounged up $40-million. Another $15-million was found for community organizations that had been shortchanged on gaming grants.
To give her jobs plan some legitimate purchase, the province had to remodel its Clean Energy policy last week to ensure enough electricity supply so that the Premier can count on snipping ribbons for new mines and liquefied natural gas plants.
This week, she made a string of announcements on the justice system to address overcrowded prisons, a backlog in the courts and crime prevention, all capped with the promise of further, wide-reaching reforms.
Thursday’s appointment of a fact finder in the long-running labour dispute with B.C. teachers is also nicely timed, laying the groundwork as it does for imposing a legislated end to the dispute. Contract talks with the teachers have been grinding along for a year now, and limited job action began in September.
Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation, was quick to condemn the appointment of senior labour bureaucrat Trevor Hughes to report on the likelihood of a negotiated settlement. “I question the independence of this assessment,” she said. “Of course a deal is possible.”
But Education Minister George Abbott made it clear he sees no prospect of a settlement. “I’ve grown increasingly pessimistic,” he told reporters. “It’s time to see a resolution to this.”
This is a roadmap for an end to the teachers dispute this spring. They’ll have to deal with class size and composition, too, before the Premier can put her stamp on education reforms.
Energy, education and justice are all big and slow-moving pieces. But as Ms. Clark approaches the first anniversary of moving into the premier’s office – the date looms just a month away – she can at least show she has started to nudge the province in a direction of her making.Report Typo/Error