Less than a fortnight before the BC Liberals hold a weighted leadership vote Feb. 26 that will decide B.C.’s next premier, candidate Christy Clark swept through the South Okanagan Wednesday, bringing her energetic discourse to Penticton.
Speaking at the Ramada Inn, after an introduction from former CTV anchor Pamela Martin, Clark said there are three primary reasons why she returned to politics after a stint as a radio host to run for premier.
“I spent four-and-a-half years listing to people for a living at CKNW radio, and every day I would listen to people talk about what’s going on in their families and in their hearts and in their communities from all over the province,” Clark told the crowd of roughly 50 people.
“One of the things I heard, clear as a bell, is that people feel really disconnected from their government. People really don’t feel that the government is doing what it needs to do in representing our local communities anymore.”
Clark suggested with power centralized in the premier’s office it reduces local MLA’s ability to represent the needs of their communities.
“I think we need to change the flow of information in Victoria so that it is not the leader sending your MLA out to your community with his or her marching orders. It should be you sending your MLA with your marching orders to Victoria because that’s the only person that can speak on your behalf,” Clark said.
“You have to let caucus represent their communities, which means you have to let them vote freely based on their constituents’ views and their own conscience … They need to be able to do something they feel is useful and contributing.”
If premier, the former cabinet minster said she would set a goal for the number of private members bills the BC Liberals would like to pass.
“The thing is MLAs don’t even bother writing them most of the time because they know they don’t even have a fighting chance of having it pass,” Clark said. “But if you set a goal … people will start bringing them forward and some of them might pass.”
Clark said she would also loosen the reins on those in cabinet.
“I would let them take responsibility for what they are doing,” she said. “If they do it well, they will get the reward, and if they don’t do it well, they will pay the price for it. But you have to let them do their job.”
Clark said another reason she is running is that she wants to help bolster the economy so that both the province and its citizens can afford the things that help people support their families and increase their standards of living.
“We are talking about small businesses and how we can help them thrive and grow recognizing that they are the biggest creators of new jobs in the economy,” Clark said. “But also the resource economy, I think people in the Lower Mainland forget about this in a big way. We forget what mining, forestry, agriculture and oil and gas do for British Columbians.”
Clark said that the province needs to support the agriculture industry with buy local initiatives while also marketing the quality of B.C. products.
“We are living now in an era where we are talking about how important it is to have food grown close to home,” she said.
Lastly, Clark said she is running for the BC Liberals leadership because she believes she has the best opportunity to defeat the NDP in the next provincial election — an assertion supported by polling.
“We need to be able to present an option in this election that is going to represent change for people because if we don’t present change to British Columbians, the NDP is going to do it,” said Clark.
“I think as somebody who’s been on the inside for a while but who also spent four-and-a-half years outside listening, I can represent the kind of change that British Colombians are hoping to see.”
With Moira Stilwell and Ed Mayne dropping out of the race this week, throwing their support behind George Abbott, Clark is competing against Abbott, Kevin Falcon and Mike de Jong.