B.C.'s premier -elect Christy Clark will focus on job creation and families as she moves to consolidate her leadership in the province.
Though she started with a considerable lead in the polls her numbers didn't carry through the election process, however, 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 as usual, but for the first time each riding was given 100 votes towards the selection of the leaders, based on how members voted. That system was created to ensure that the entire province would be represented equally with the more 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 of counting with 27.78 per cent.
In the final round, with only Clark and Falcon remaining, Clark took 4,420 points to Falcon's 4,080 (based on 8,500 total points), 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. (See sidebar for more).
Clark will lead the Liberal Party through the next election in summer 2013 - and possibly earlier - and is inheriting a number of issues, including the controversial Harmonized Sales Tax, a budget deficit and unhappiness over rising fees and utility rates.
Clark, who has yet to address the media, released this statement to party members 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."
Clark has moved quickly, meeting with MLAs on Monday, with more one-on-one meetings planned through the week.
"This was an internal race, and one of the things that all the candidates agreed at the outset is that we wanted to be united at the end, and that we would have one common goal," said McIntyre. "(The goal) is to continue to provide the free enterprise coalition government that we have delivered for the past decade."
It's also unknown whom Clark will pick for cabinet, although McIntyre says she would not be surprised if Falcon, Abbott and de Jong were extended invitations.
"She's really moving fast and has made an effort to speak to members of caucus and those who might have supported another candidate," said McIntyre.
Clark 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 holding a provincial cabinet position, after Quebec's Pauline Marois. Caring for her then three-year-old son was one of the reasons that Clark, now 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 was a newspaper columnist and 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 that 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 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 Johnston and Ujjal Dosanjh were appointed designates for other Premiers that were not re-elected to the position.