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British Columbia Christy Clark to avoid legislature, tour province in lead-up to B.C. election

B.C. Premier Christy Clark joins students from local schools in singing and dancing on the front steps of the B.C. Legislature in February 2012.

Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail

Premier Christy Clark is dismissing the B.C. Legislature as an "enclosed bubble" to be avoided this fall as she tours the province in a bid to connect with voters ahead of the 2013 election.

As Ms. Clark announced an expansion of skills training in the province on Wednesday, she told reporters to expect many more such announcements in the months ahead. The legislature was expected to sit during that period, but House Leader Mike de Jong said members of Ms. Clark's newly shuffled Liberal cabinet will be out meeting voters instead.

That leaves more time for events like Wednesday's – an election-style announcement held at the British Columbia Institute of Technology's aerospace technology campus. Earlier this week, following a trade mission to Asia, Ms. Clark was in Prince George to announce $17-million to upgrade skills training equipment at B.C.'s postsecondary institutions.

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On Thursday, the Premier will be in Kelowna, at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia, for a health-education announcement.

"We are going to continue doing those announcements focused on making sure we make British Columbia the economic engine of this country so that if you want a job in British Columbia, you can find one," Ms. Clark said.

Many polls show Ms. Clark's Liberals running far behind the opposition New Democrats, and facing a fracturing of their centre-right coalition as the provincial Conservatives – like the Liberals, unaffiliated with their federal namesake – gain traction.

On Wednesday, Ms. Clark campaigned against the legislature where she has spent much of her professional career as an MLA, minister and now premier. Under fire for interview comments suggesting she views Victoria as a "sick culture" without "real people," Ms. Clark said she was actually referring to the legislature, which she described as an "enclosed bubble."

"When a politician sits on the grounds of the legislature and spends most of their time there, they're talking to pundits and they're talking to each other," she said. "You cannot build a government that responds to the needs of British Columbians if you're not out there listening to them."

Ms. Clark declined to say how many days the legislature might sit as the May 2013 election approaches.

But B.C. NDP House Leader John Horgan noted that Ms. Clark has not proposed any real measures to improve the operation of the legislature, which has a $69-million annual budget. Mr. Horgan, MLA for a Victoria-area riding, said Ms. Clark seems to be suggesting nothing gets done in Victoria but ignoring the reality that the cancellation of the fall session won't help matters.

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"Lots of stuff happens in Victoria when we're assembled. It doesn't always happen in the chamber. It happens in the corridors. I talk to ministers. Ministers talk to me. We're sharing our experiences," he said. "I think she's completely at sea."

B.C.'s legislature sat for 48 days in 2011, ranking fifth among legislatures in Canada behind Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba. As of August this year, it had sat for 47 days.

Martyn Brown, former chief of staff to premier Gordon Campbell, said on CKNW Radio that scrapping the fall session got rid of an opportunity for the media to press B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix on the specifics of his agenda.Premier Christy Clark is dismissing the B.C. Legislature as an "enclosed bubble" to be avoided this fall as she tours the province in a bid to connect with voters ahead of the 2013 election.

As Ms. Clark announced an expansion of skills training in the province on Wednesday, she told reporters to expect many more such announcements in the months ahead. The legislature was expected to sit during that period, but House Leader Mike de Jong said members of Ms. Clark's newly shuffled Liberal cabinet will be out meeting voters instead.

That leaves more time for events like Wednesday's – an election-style announcement held at the British Columbia Institute of Technology's aerospace technology campus. Earlier this week, following a trade mission to Asia, Ms. Clark was in Prince George to announce $17-million to upgrade skills training equipment at B.C.'s postsecondary institutions.

On Thursday, the Premier will be in Kelowna, at the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia, for a health-education announcement.

Story continues below advertisement

"We are going to continue doing those announcements focused on making sure we make British Columbia the economic engine of this country so that if you want a job in British Columbia, you can find one," Ms. Clark said.

Many polls show Ms. Clark's Liberals running far behind the opposition New Democrats, and facing a fracturing of their centre-right coalition as the provincial Conservatives – like the Liberals, unaffiliated with their federal namesake – gain traction.

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