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The BC Liberal Party announced a new leader on Saturday, February 26th. Her name is Christy Clark. She is to replace Gordon Campbell who has served as Premier since 2001 but recently resigned due to low ratings. Being Premier of BC is a big job for the 45 year-old, especially after Campbell’s recent resignation. The big question is how will she and the BC Liberal Party hold in the next provincial election?
Currently Premier-Designate Christy Clark is no stranger to politics. If you saw her resume, you’d see she has quite a list of accomplishments. Her first political victory came at the age of 30 when she was elected MLA for the Port-Moody-Westwood riding in 1996. At the start, while the Liberals were the official opposition party in BC, she served as the Official Opposition critic for the environment, children and families and for the public service. As the Liberal Party headed by Gordon Campbell prepared for the provincial election of 2001, she served as the campaign co-chair in which the Party won 77 of the 79 seats. Once Gordon Campbell was sworn in as Premier, she was appointed Deputy Premier and the Minister of Education. She would be appointed Minister of Children and Family Development in January 2004. In September of that same year, she quit provincial politics and did not seek re-election of her MLA position in 2005. She would later seek leadership of the Non-Partisan Association for the Vancouver mayor election that same year, but lost to eventual mayor Sam Sullivan.
She’s also a popular media figure too. She was a weekly columnist for the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province during the 2005 provincial election and was a television election analyst during the 2006 federal election. She also hosted a Vancouver radio show: The Christy Clark Show from 2007 until she decided to enter the premier leadership back in December.
Even though no provincial election has been called yet, she faces a bumpy road for the BC Liberal Party firstly based on past election results. On the provincial side of things, leading provincial parties face a huge electoral loss after their leader resigns as premier. Past history in the last 30 years have proven so. In Manitoba, NDP Howard Pawley, who was elected premier in 1981, resigned. The leadership then went to Gary Doer. The NDP finished the election with the third-most ridings. Doer would have to wait until three more provincial elections before being elected premier of Manitoba. BC premier Glenn Clark, who headed the NDP Party, resigned in 1999 and would be replaced by Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh the following year. The BC NDP, headed by Dosanjh would face a humiliating loss of winning 2 of 79 seats, paving the way for Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals. Carole James, the NDP leader since, has headed the party in two provincial elections, regaining many seats for the NDP but losing to Campbell both times.
Nationally, political parties have had its own dark days when their leader resigns as Prime Minister. In 1984, Pierre Trudeau resigned as Prime Minister and John Turner would be voted head the Liberal Party. In the national election, his Liberal party would lose to the PC Party headed by Brian Mulroney. Turner remains the Prime Minister with the second-shortest leadership. He would head the federal Liberal party in the following federal election in 1988 and would lose to the Mulroney PC’s again. The PC Party would soon face its own party troubles after Mulroney resigned in 1993. Kim Campbell succeeded him. However Campbell and the PC’s would face a crushing defeat in the federal election that same year by winning only two seats. The Liberal’s headed by Jean Chretien would win the federal election. Chretien would be re-elected twice more while Canadian Conservatives would struggle with political parties for many years. The PC Party ran again in 1997, would reconstruct themselves at the Canadian Alliance Party for the 2000 federal election, and would them become the Conservative Party in time for the 2004 election.
If past elections aren’t enough for Christy to cause concern, it would be the Campbell leadership, especially in the last year. Campbell’s leadership has always been through a rocky road ever since he was elected but he would be hit hardest in 2010 upon introducing the HST. The introduction of the tax, and the rapid implementation if it, proved to be very unpopular amongst British Columbians. Soon after, the polls had him at an approval rating of just 9%, the lowest of any provincial premier. This was cause for him to resign in November of 2010.
Now despite party problems, Christy Clark has had some political problems of her own once she’s sworn in on March 14th. As Minister of Education, she introduced changes like stronger parental power, increased accountability and provided greater parental choice in the flexibility in the school system. This proved unpopular with teachers, school board members and union officials as they believed it resulted in funding gaps. She also sought to increase the independence of the BC College of Teachers against strong opposition from the BC Teachers Federation. She also has allegations against her regarding a BC Rail scandal when she was deputy premier, although nothing has been proven against her. Those could hurt her come election time.
Currently no provincial election date has been set, and there may not even be one for a full year. Dawn Black is currently interim leader of the BC NDP Party, succeeding Carole James. Jane Sterk leads the Green Party. The BC Conservative Party is not associated with the national Conservative Party and may have a slim chance in the election. Nevertheless all opposition parties have a good chance at rivaling Clark and the Liberals in the eventual provincial election. In this period of time, Sterk and Black have to prove themselves worthy of the office of provincial Premier. Black already has a lengthy resume of her own political accomplishments while Sterk has yet to prove herself. In the meantime, Clark can use the time to her advantage to improve her political image and the image of the Liberal Party in this post-Campbell era as an effort to win the next election. She would also have to use the time to prove she is worthy of being Premier of British Columbia.
With the next provincial election happening anytime, Christy Clark arrives at the Premier’s desk with a lot of baggage of the Campbell Administration and of her own doing. Despite it all, only time will tell whether she has what it takes to be Premier of British Columbia and whether she and the BC Liberals deserve to win the election.
WIKIPEDIA: Christy Clark.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christy_Clark>
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