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B.C. Premier Christy Clark at a press conference in Vancouver September 16, 2014.Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

Irene Lanzinger, elected head of the B.C. Federation of Labour on Thursday, says she will try to find "common ground" with the Liberal government, although she would prefer to see the NDP running the province.

"Anyone who leads the B.C. Fed has to meet with whatever government is in power because that's in the interests of working people. It's no secret that this is not the government we would pick if we had a choice, but we have some common ground with them," she said after winning the presidency of the half-million-member organization by 57 votes.

The former head of the B.C. teachers union cited trades training, workers compensation and health and safety issues as points of discussion with the government of Premier Christy Clark.

Ms. Lanzinger said she did not expect criticism from federation members for agreeing to work with the government as long as she explains her view. "There are times we can influence governments even if they are governments we are not that fond of."

Ms. Lanzinger promised the federation will work in the 2017 election campaign to bring the NDP to power. "They are the party that is consistent with our values."

She said she doubts any of this will surprise the Liberals. "It's no secret to them," she said. Ms. Clark congratulated Ms. Lanzinger on Twitter, and said she was "looking forward to working together for B.C.'s workers."

Ms. Lanzinger, who has lately served as the federation's secretary-treasurer, won the leadership over rival Amber Hockin. She replaces Jim Sinclair, who led the federation for 15 years.

She is the first female leader of the federation. "I think it signifies that women are taking their rightful place as leaders in the labour movement, and it's about time," she said.