Sunday, February 27, 2011

Clark success uncertain in coming tough job

Christy Clark was excellent when th e Liberals were in opposition. Likable, quick, with a finely honed sense of how to score points when the NDP government stumbled. She had all the skills needed.
In government, not so much. And that raises doubts about her chances to be an effective Liberal leader and premier.
Clark’s leadership victory certainly confirms an impressive organization. But the fact that it took three ballots to win the support of 50 per cent of party members who voted shows she is hardly the first choice of most Liberals.
That’s emphasized by her lack of support among those politicians who know here best – her caucus colleagues from the old days.
The lack of support has been attributed to Clark’s absence for the last six years, since she decided not to run in 2005.
But it also reflects a lacklustre performance during her tenure in cabinet after the 2001 election. Clark struggled in education. Conflict with the B.C. Teachers Federation was inevitable, given the Liberal agenda. But Clark clashed with school trustees and did not build stong relationships with parent groups. It is difficult to point to any substantial achievements.
Her time as children and families minister was also unproductive.
Clark went from star status in opposition to underperformer in cabinet.
Now she has the top job at a time when the Liberals need to rebuild. The HST was certainly the flashpoint for public disaffection, but it was a symptom for a broader sense that the Liberal government had lost touch with the concerns of British Columbians and – worse - was not particulary worried about it.
Any leader, in any organization, has a matter of months to bring real change.
Clark starts with some advantages. The Liberals have been drifting since the last election – it is hard to think of any clear policy direction or initiatives on health, education or economic development.
That gives her a blank slate to set a new course, to offer programs that address the concerns of British Columbia’s families.
And this month’s placeholder budget gives her fiscal room to put her stamp on government with a mini-budget sometime in the next few months. She has about $1 billion available, for tax cuts or anti-poverty measures or economic development or deficit reduction. She can move beyond talk about families first or other themes to actions.
But Clark also has some problems. Her policy pronouncements during the leadership campaign were neither detailed nor coherent. Shaping them into budgetable progams will not be easy.
And she has to walk a fine line in naming a new cabinet and setting up her own senior staff. Clark doesn’t have a cadre of supportive cabinet ministers and MLAs to draw on. She has to risk putting former rivals in key roles, or perhaps more dangerousoly excluding them. And she has to balance the need to send a message of a new start for the party with the ambitions of the old guard.
Then there is the HST. The Liberals still want the tax approved in the referendum. But pushing that message places Clark back in the Campbell fold, a politically damaging place to be; renouncing it makes her colleagues who have defended the tax look foolish.
The timing of the next election is also an issue. Clark can get into the legislature quickly, assuming Gordon Campbell gives up his safe seat.
But she has also talked about the need for a new mandate from the voters. Clark ruled out a snap vote before the NDP selects a new leader in April, but could consider a vote this fall or next spring.
Underlying all this, there is the B.C. Rail scandal, which will not – and should not - go away.
It was an impressive win for Christy Clark. But the work ahead is difficult and risky and it is not at all clear that she has the required skills and support to get the job done.
Footonote: There has been talk of the challenge facing Clark, a federal Liberal, in holding together the provincial party’s coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives. But the risks to the coalition are much broader. Anytime a long-time powerful leader like Campbell leaves, pent-up stresses within the organization can lead to fractures.


ron wilton said...

She would be well advised to turf Falcon, Hansen and Coleman at the very least, if she wants any 'new' support.

DPL said...

she had it better in her last job as a radio hot liner. Back then she could always have a commercial break. She will make enemies and I wonder if she can actually run much of anything.The NDP will remind us often about her family connections to the BC rail fiasco

Anonymous said...

I would like to begin by saying this is a great political blog. Perhaps you can teach Black Press and regular Campbell c*ckstroker Tom Fletcher a little about journalism.

Totally agree with all your points. I'm guessing that one way she can galvanize her support is to go after organized labour, especially the BCTF and CUPE, since contracts are up for renewal for both and professional concerns with the former regarding such things as FSA testing and the College of Teachers (perhaps in a way to sell her families first program). With the HST, I wonder if we'll see some form of clever revamping and exemptions provided to make this more palatable to some organizations (i.e. the restaurant industry?).

The NDP is about old faces and even older ideas that just don't resonate with enough voters, especially in areas where they need to make inroads. The Liberals could run a goat in the central Okanagan riding around Kelowna and still win the seat! They don't win elections, the Socred/Liberals find ways to lose them and really that might be the only way the NDP gets close here.

Regardless of what kind of skeletons emerge from Christy's closet or zombies that keep rising from the dead (i.e. B.C. Rail) the Liberals will remain the ruling party for a long time to come because they have the key media outlets in this province (Global, CTV, Sun/Province in urban areas, Black Press in the interior) on their side. Farnsworth, Dix, and the rest of the opposition are kidding themselves if they think they have a hope winning the war of an election victory. Better to concentrate on winning the minor battles along the way.

And that's where quality journalists like you come in. Keep up the great objective work!

Anonymous said...

I doubt Campbell is going very far away. There is no way he would trust Christy, to follow through, on all of his dirty work for Harper. Campbell signed in favor of, the dirty oil tankers from China, to invade our beautiful coast. So, the dirty pipeline, must have got the go-ahead. He was also working to have, the Prosperity Mine to be expanded, and to dump the toxic mine waste, into Fish Lake. Ottawa has said, there could be a, reapplication. That's the first thing Christy said she would tackle Ottawa on. It has already been made, a done deal. Harper and Campbell have also been pushing to drill gas and oil wells, off BC's coast. Do you really think, he would allow Christy handle these issues? I don't. Campbell also knows, Christy can't afford to have, a full criminal investigation of, his corrupt sale of the BCR. Nothing in this province is going to change.

Anonymous said...

You would indeed have to be a total fool, not to see the HST has killed this province. BC citizens have been spending billions, shopping in the U.S.A, and Alberta, because of the HST. People shop on line, because of the HST. Small business owners are still having to close their doors, because of the HST. A restaurant owner on TV said, this is the worst his business has done in 20 years, because of the HST. BC has done the worst of all of the western provinces, because of the HST. BC lost, 40,000 jobs in three months, because of the HST. All the HST provinces, have failed badly. Besides which, the idiot Campbell gave our HST to, the other snake in the grass Harper. That's the last we have seen, of the tax, that was forced upon us. The HST wasn't on Campbell and Hansen's radar, was just a dirty election lie. We now know, Campbell, Hansen and Harper colluded on the HST in March, before the May BC election. So, they can cut the crap. The HST was designed for big business, and big business only.

Harper is deathly afraid, the anger of the other countries, will spread to Canada. Serves him right. Canadians are fed up with, the vile corruption, lies and deceit, in our country, and in our provinces.

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Anonymous said...

In response to 7:39 pm you have to understand that what Fletcher represents to lefties is precisely what Wilcocks represents to the right wingers. Both are highly partisan columnists and they each provide important perspectives from a different slant. Our B.C. media needs balance and as far as I am concerned Wilcocks is to us lefties what Fletcher is to the right wingers. Criticizing the messenger because they have a different point of view does not help this process.