Christy Clark’s victory disappoints local BC Liberals, but may delight the NDP

By David F. Rooney

Christy Clark’s third-ballot victory in Saturday’s BC Liberal leadership convention disappointed local party members who remain convinced that Shuswap MLA George Abbott was the best person for the job.

“I am hugely disappointed, hugely,” said Peter Bernacki who helped organize Abbott’s meeting last week with local Liberals. “George is the man who could have helped fix the problems the party has. I don’t think Christy Clark can do that.”

Other Liberals agreed.

“I just don’t understand it,” said Barry Ozero.

The feeling among local Liberals is that the Interior’s interests would have been best served by Abbott, the leadership candidate with a rural background. They also fear that Christy will be unable to make gains in ridings outside the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

That works, however, for the New Democrats.

MLA Norm Macdonald, in Revelstoke Saturday for the annual Rod and Gun Club dinner, said “congratulations are in order for Christy Clark,” but he noted she has a lot of work ahead of her.

“My own preference would have been George Abbott,” he said. “George is a rural person and he was very, very credible minister of health. There’s a tremendous number of rural issues. He would have been more likely to get things done.”

Macdonald acknowledges that Abbott would also have been a very formidable opponent for the NDP because of his appeal in rural ridings. If the NDP can field a credible new leader, perhaps Mike Farnworth, the man he is backing for the NDP leadership, it might have a real crack at forming a government after the next election.

Christy also lacks a seat in the Legislature and because “she doesn’t have a mandate” Macdonald thinks Christy will be under pressure to hold an election sooner rather than later, perhaps as soon as a year from now. The next election isn’t scheduled until 2013.

Clark had no support from within the ranks of the cabinet and had limited support within caucus, he said.

Overall, Macdonald doesn’t think she’ll make a very credible premier.

“She wasn’t highly respected as minister of education,” he said. “She closed a lot of schools and put school districts under a lot of financial pressure. She left a real mess and the ministry hasn’t recovered.”

There will also be questions about Clark’s ex-husband, Mark Marissen, her brother, Bruce Clark, and Patrick Kinsella — the BC Liberal insider who worked on her campaign and who was paid $297,000 by BC Rail for business advice over four years despite some senior executives there not knowing what he did.

Couple that with the HST referendum, the need to bring in a provincial budget and deal with other lingering issues and it looks as though Clark will have a lot on her plate before she even manages to win a seat in the Legislature.