Premier Christy Clark is still trying to win the job of MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, but she's already assembled a long list of other careers she wants to check out.
Late last month, Ms. Clark donned an apron and worked for a couple of hours in a diner. On Friday night, she was hanging out with the beat cops on patrol. Next, she wants to spend a day as a nurse, or perhaps as part of the crew running a garbage truck.
It's all about branding the new Premier as someone who can connect with working people - but it's a strategy that can backfire. Former premier Gordon Campbell's repertoire, apart from his standard business suit, was the occasional hard hat and those red Olympic mittens. He donned a plaid shirt once - and was roasted as a phony.
In an interview Monday, Ms. Clark said she lifted the idea from a U.S. politician who tried out three different jobs. "I thought what a great way to ensure I don't get stuck in the cocoon of Victoria and get disconnected from the people who are paying taxes in the province."
Voters in Vancouver-Point Grey will get the first chance to respond to how it's working when the by-election votes are tallied on Wednesday night. The riding formerly held by Mr. Campbell has always been a challenge for the B.C. Liberals. Which is why NDP candidate David Eby paints Ms. Clark as a carbon copy of Mr. Campbell. And why Ms. Clark is going out of her way to present a different face - or rather, many different faces.
Here are some of the jobs she has tried, or wants to take on:
On April 30, Ms. Clark served a breakfast shift at the Sunshine Diner, timed to bring attention to her decision to raise the minimum wage after a decade-long freeze. Starting salary, thanks to her changes, would be minimum wage of $8.75 an hour.
Walking the beat
Ms. Clark spent three hours in the rain in the gritty Downtown Eastside meeting residents who have lived on the streets for decades. Her security detail stayed home - her backup for the night was the Vancouver Police Department. A probationary constable earns $58,695 a year.
Ms. Clark's next ride-along may be with a municipal sanitation crew. "The back of a garbage truck smells cleaner than a lot of politics these days but she'll see filth," predicted Mike Jackson, president of CUPE Local 1004, representing Vancouver garbage workers. He thinks Ms. Clark would benefit from the experience: "This is a great opportunity to see what the public throws out." A typical day would cover 35 city blocks and as many as 1,000 homes, collecting nine tonnes of trash. Starting pay is $24 an hour.
When the season starts, Ms. Clark could join a crew of strawberry pickers, starting at the crack of dawn. A typical shift is 12 hours in the fields in "horrible" working conditions, said Raj Chouhan, long-time farmworkers activist and the B.C. NDP critic for labour. "If she does an honest day of work, she will be lucky to make $40."
Caring for the elderly
Ms. Clark wants to spend a day as a licensed practical nurse. Union jobs in public facilities start at $23 an hour, but many LPNs work at private long-term care facilities for less. The job involves plenty of paperwork, but also direct patient care - bathing, dressing and feeding patients and delivering medication. To get a full sense of the job, Erin Sikora of the BCGEU, which represents some of B.C.'s LPNs, recommends Ms. Clark head to rural B.C., where many LPNs have to travel as much as 100 kilometres between job sites to patch together something resembling fulltime work.
Ms. Clark said she's always been curious about what happens at 3 a.m. at London Drugs. The president of the company, Wynne Powell, says he'd be happy to let her find out. The position starts at $9.41 an hour. She'd be expected to begin her shift no later than 5 a.m. facing pallets of merchandise delivered to her assigned aisle, where she would be responsible for matching UPS codes to a computerized map that shows where the stock belongs, "a process of total, fanatic commitment to customers' standards," Mr. Powell explained. "It's a family company, I think she would enjoy it," he added.
Ms. Clark said a single shift at any job isn't going to reveal the whole picture that workers in these fields experience, but she can learn from the people she'll train with. "It's not just doing the job, it's being able to spend eight hours with the people who do the jobs."
Adrian Dix, Leader of the NDP Opposition, said it would be more authentic if she did the work without any media around. But, he added: "I'm never critical of people who try to connect with other people." And given the B.C. Liberal government's record of rolling back contracts and reducing employment standards, he said, "it might be helpful for them to meet some working people."