Okanagan MLAs rally behind new Liberal leader

Christy Clark waves to the crowd after winning the BC Liberal leadership. - Boaz Joseph/Black Press
Christy Clark waves to the crowd after winning the BC Liberal leadership.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph/Black Press

Christy Clark started her first day as premier-designate Sunday at her son’s hockey game, with plans to appoint a cabinet; move the referendum on the harmonized sales tax up to June; and win a seat in a byelection as soon as possible.

Clark won the B.C. Liberal leadership vote Saturday, with a narrow victory over Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon after the third round of voting, a weighted-vote in which rural and urban ridings were made equivalent and where members voted for their second and third choices. 

Clark led the pack throughout the process. The point totals after the first round were 789 for Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong; 2,091 for Shuswap MLA Abbott; 2,411 for Falcon; and 3,209 for Clark. After the second round Clark had 3,575 points, followed by Falcon with 2,564 and Abbott with 2,364.

On the third and final ballot, Clark received 4,420 votes for 52 per cent of the party’s support and Falcon had 4,080. According to party president Mickey Patryluk, about 62 per cent of the nearly 90,000 BC Liberal members voted.

After the final vote result was revealed at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Clark was joined on stage by rival candidates and most of the BC Liberal caucus. 

Clark said she looks forward to building on the legacy of Premier Gordon Campbell before stressing her campaign theme of families.

“My commitment to putting families first starts with job creation and fighting poverty,” Clark said. “These are going to be the top priorities for our government.”

Penticton MLA and Speaker of the House Bill Barisoff said he thinks Clark will do a good job.

“Premier (Gordon) Campbell did a great job for the province, particularly here for Penticton and for the South Okanagan, and I think that Christy will do a great job for the province also,” said Barisoff. “I’m sure she’ll put a different stamp on things and maybe move things in a different direction, but certainly I am hoping and I’m expecting that she will keep moving the province forward.

“She has a big job ahead of her. We have to make sure that she unites the caucus and also make sure that the free enterprise side of the equation stays together.”

Boundary Similkameen MLA John Slater said he thought the leadership campaign was a valuable exercise for his party.

“I think the process was great,” said Slater. “Everybody got their chance to vote, whether you were in a rural riding or downtown Vancouver.”

Slater said he does not know Clark well but that he has heard good things.

“Everybody that I have talked to who has worked with her in cabinet or in government certainly thinks she has the abilities to run the province,” he said. “We have got to get back together as a coalition and I think Christy can do it. I think the Liberal party itself absolutely has to come together and make sure that we are running the province properly.”

Slater said the BC Liberals will hold their first caucus meeting with Clark as leader today and that he hopes to be back at the legislature in the next  two or three weeks.

Interim NDP leader Dawn Black issued a statement congratulating Clark before urging her to call the legislature back into session immediately.

“Specifically, she needs to table legislation moving up the HST referendum, establish an independent third party review of the $6 million payoff to the BC Liberal insiders in the BC Rail corruption trial, and table a new budget that invests in people, creates jobs, and helps B.C. families make ends meet,” Black said.

With files from Tom Fletcher.

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