Premier Christy Clark, facing polls that suggest she's lagging behind NDP Leader Adrian Dix on issues and leadership, appears to have decided to promote the Liberal team ahead of herself as campaigning for the May 14 election looms.
Following a speech on Tuesday to introduce the party's Surrey candidates, Ms. Clark put the emphasis on the team of BC Liberals who will be on the ballot, even suggesting that Mr. Dix was hogging the spotlight from his MLA candidates.
Ms. Clark was at her third event in 24 hours, following a lunch speech in Langley and a rally Monday night in Vancouver-Fraserview, whose sitting Liberal MLA Kash Heed called Tuesday for the resignation of her jobs minister and justice minister over a procurement process in Prince George. As it happens, Mr. Dix has had no public events so far this week due to meetings, according to his office.
Asked about Surrey candidates following a pep-rally speech, Ms. Clark touted the nominees in the city's eight ridings as each being capable of serving in cabinet.
"I'm really proud of my candidates," she said. "You will see over the next few weeks, the next month, you are going to see me with the team alot. I am very proud of the candidates we have recruited." She suggested Mr. Dix is drawing too much attention to himself. "When I look at the NDP, I see one guy making all the decisions and I don't think you build a team like that. I think British Columbia is better when the best and brightest are assembled around the table and everybody is allowed to have a role in that, so you are going to see me really talking about our team of people and the fresh eyes we're bringing."
The message comes amid suggestions that local campaign advertising has played down Ms. Clark somewhat to win votes in ridings.
The BC New Democrats are running 20 points ahead of the Liberals, according to the latest Angus Reid Public Opinion poll. Mr. Dix has a 47-per-cent approval rating – 20 points ahead of Ms. Clark, who is tied with Jane Sterk, the leader of the BC Green Party, at 27 per cent.
According to the same poll, 58 per cent of respondents say their opinion of Ms. Clark has worsened.
But Angus-Reid vice-president Mario Canseco says the key number here is the question asking about the best premier. Mr. Dix had 31 per cent, compared to 16 per cent for Ms. Clark.
Mr. Canseco said the Liberals appear to be playing up the virtue of having recruited candidates who have been away from politics, and projecting a sense of depth as part of a plan to fight 85 individual riding elections, as opposed to one provincewide campaign pitting Ms. Clark head to head against Mr. Dix.
"What they're trying to do is talk about the fact that they have attractive people to run as candidates even thought the situation seems very difficult at this point," he said.
Among the new-to-elected-politics candidates Ms. Clark touted Tuesday was a physician and an RCMP inspector on leave. There are many such candidates across B.C. seeking to fill the void of incumbents who have decided not to seek another term.
Political scientist Hamish Telford of the University of the Fraser Valley noted that the "Adrian Dix as a one-man show" approach might have some traction simply because the general public probably isn't familiar with most opposition members beyond Mr. Dix. Of Ms. Clark, he said, "she doesn't have many cards left to play, so this may be a worthwhile one to try."
Mr. Canseco said past elections have shown the approach can work. Still, he said it was a big shift in the Liberal approach.
"It's kind of ironic in the sense that [Ms.Clark] was regarded as the best hope for the Liberal brand because they thought the Liberal brand would be tarnished after [former premier] Gordon Campbell, and now they are steering clear of talking about the fact that she's the leader, and trying to talk more about the team around her."