B.C.'s premier -elect Christy Clark will focus on job creation and families as she moves to consolidate her leadership in the province.
She started with a huge lead in the polls and although her numbers didn't carry through the election process Clark still had a handy lead over her closest rival Minister Kevin Falcon.
The ruling B.C. Liberal Party held its election on Saturday to replace Gordon Campbell, after almost tripling membership in the months leading up to the vote. The party went with a ranked voting system, and each riding's share of the votes were weighted the same to ensure that the next leader reflected the will of the entire province rather that the wishes of party members in heavily populated areas like Vancouver and Victoria.
In the points system that was adopted, Christy Clark won 37.76 per cent of the votes in the first round, well short of the 50.01 per cent needed to win by acclaim. Kevin Falcon was a distant second with 28.37 per cent, followed by George Abbott with 24.60 per cent. Mike de Jong received the fewest votes and was eliminated for the second round recount.
Clark's lead grew to 42.05 per cent while Falcon had 30.17 per cent. Abbott was dropped from the third round with 27.78 per cent.
In the final round of counting, with only Clark and Falcon remaining, Clark took 4,420 points to Falcon's 4,080, or 52 per cent of the ballots.
Falcon was the favourite in the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky Riding through all three rounds, and was backed by riding MLA Joan McIntyre earlier in the race.
Clark will lead the Liberal Party through the next election in summer 2013 - or possibly earlier - and is inheriting a number of issues, including the controversial Harmonized Sales Tax, a budget deficit, unhappiness over rising fees and utility rates and a perception that the B.C. Liberal Party promotes business over social needs.
Clark, who has yet to address the media, released a statement on her website: "I would like to invite you to join me in bringing open government to B.C. and to help build a government that puts families first. It is a great honour to have been selected as your premier and I am looking forward to working in partnership with you to bring constructive change to our government.
She ran on a platform called "The Families First Agenda For Change" that focused on new business and job creation, balancing the budget, controlling growing health care spending, developing clean energy, reinvesting in northern and rural communities, marketing resources, reviewing municipal taxation, proceeding with the HST referendum on June 24, harmonizing the environmental appeals process, increasing transparency, shifting to online voting, partially restoring gaming grants, and bringing back a Family Day holiday in February. The complete platform is at www.christyclark.ca.
Clark is the 35th Premier in B.C. history, and the second female to hold the position after Rita Johnston held the post for eight months in 1991. She is also the second female to give birth while in a provincial cabinet position, after Quebec's Pauline Marois. Caring for her then three-year-old son was one of the reasons the single mom gave before stepping down in 2004.
Premier Gordon Campbell announced his resignation on Nov. 3, after his approval rating dropped to the single digits. That decline in popularity was largely linked to his party's decision to introduce a Harmonized Sales Tax after he and other party members said the party wouldn't during the 2009 election. The HST combines the federal GST and Provincial Sales Tax in such a way that both taxes now apply to various products and services that were exempt from one or both taxes in the past.
Clark quit provincial politics back in 2004, then led an unsuccessful campaign for leadership of the municipal NPA Party in the City of Vancouver the following year to eventual mayor Sam Sullivan. She hosted a radio show on CKNW for close to three years, before announcing her intention to run for the position of leader in the B.C. Liberal Party.
Clark, unlike Kevin Falcon, Mike de Jong and George Abbott was seen as an outsider coming into the campaign, while the other candidates were viewed by some as cabinet and party insiders who worked closely with Premier Gordon Campbell in recent years - a point in Clark's favour, given the party's decline in popularity since the HST was introduced.
Clark's campaign was not without its own issues. She dipped in the polls when she revealed that she likely wouldn't run for the party in the next provincial election if she didn't win the party leadership. As well, while she wasn't tainted with the HST issue, her critics pointed out her involvement in controversial and unpopular decisions like the sale of B.C. Rail to CN and the privatization of B.C. Ferries.
The last B.C. Premier to leave the post without resigning was David Barrett (1972-1975) William Bennett, Bill Vander Zalm, Michael Harcourt, Glen Clark and Dan Miller resigned, while Rita Johnson and Ujjal Dosanjh were appointed designates for other Premiers that were not re-elected to the position.
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