Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Get ready for a wild ride with Premier Clark

She campaigned on a slogan of change. And now that Christy Clark is the premier-designate of British Columbia she is going to have to deliver.

It won't be easy.

Ms. Clark's message resonated with the party membership because of the unshakable impression held by a great swath of the public that the government of Gordon Campbell had stopped listening. The grassroots rebellion that erupted in B.C. as a result of the government's ham-fisted introduction of the HST - a move that eventually cost Mr. Campbell his job - demonstrates what can happen when people perceive that politicians have tuned them out.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Clark left a career in politics to become a popular afternoon radio talk show host. She maintains that it was there, sitting in that seat every day, that she tapped into the public's frustration with the government. It was there, opening up her phone lines, that she maintains she picked up listening skills she didn't possess before.

We'll see.

How does one change something as infamously intransigent as government? How does she give the public a real seat at the table? Holding a dozen forums around the province in her first year, as she's promised to do, certainly won't be enough to uphold her end of the bargain. She has promised to give MLAs more say in government decisions, which sounds good. But are any of these measures going to lead to the kind of real, substantive change that she has promised and that the public, and those in the party who voted for her, are expecting her to bring in?

I don't think so.

But Ms. Clark's first task will be to unite her caucus. Only one member of it endorsed her. There are already rumblings that some members of her caucus - former solicitor general John van Dongen among them - are planning to bolt. We'll see. But she will almost immediately have to begin planning her cabinet and it's impossible to think she won't have major roles for her chief rivals, Kevin Falcon and George Abbott.

Any leader who has endured a hard, potentially divisive leadership campaign is always advised to keep their friends close and enemies closer. I expect Mr. Falcon and Mr. Abbott and, even fourth-place finisher Mike de Jong, will get prominent positions around her cabinet table.

She'd be nuts not to include the brainy Moira Stilwell too.

Story continues below advertisement

I'm betting Mr. Falcon is the province's next finance minister, a move that will go a long way to addressing concerns among those on the right wing of the party who see the premier-designate as a mushy centrist.

It was no surprise that Ms. Clark stressed unity in her address to party members after her victory. There was a showy display of unity on stage as cabinet ministers and MLAs came up to give the new premier a big hug and no doubt whisper in her ear that they really wanted to support her all along - they just forgot.

Because she only received an endorsement from one lonely and lowly backbencher, Ms. Clark has free rein in picking her cabinet. You can't campaign on a motto of change and pick the same old faces for your executive team. So I would expect to see plenty of new faces when she announces her cabinet in the coming weeks.

Mr. Campbell was a famous micromanager who often overruled his ministers. He thought he was the smartest person in the cabinet room and acted that way. I don't expect Ms. Clark will behave the same way because she won't be the smartest in the room and she knows it.

I expect she will give her cabinet ministers more power and say than they've had in a decade.

In her speech, Ms. Clark said change begins tonight.

Story continues below advertisement

We will see. I think we are in for a wild ride.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
National affairs columnist

Gary Mason began his journalism career in British Columbia in 1981, working as a summer intern for Canadian Press. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.