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Joan McIntyre optimistic for new tone set by Christy Clark

Sea to Sky MLA not disappointed that her choice did not win leadership

Though West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Joan McIntyre campaigned for Kevin Falcon in the Liberal leadership race she is not disappointed that Christy Clark managed to secure the Premiership.

"I think she's going to bring a different style to the table," said McIntyre.

"The consensus among the party and the public seems to be welcoming a new style, and someone who tends to engage with the public."

McIntyre backed Kevin Falcon in the leadership race to succeed outgoing Premier Gordon Campbell, and with good reason - McIntyre has worked alongside Falcon for several years. She said she appreciated all that he brought to the riding as a minister for both transportation and health, and believed he showed the best leadership qualities of any candidate.

"I saw him in action and he's a doer," said McIntyre. "He does his homework, he knows his files and he's not afraid to make a decision to lead."

The list of things she credits Falcon for include the upgrading of infrastructure around the province, including the Sea to Sky Highway, his work with municipalities when developing infrastructure, the federal grants he delivered for everything from trail building to infrastructure upgrades, and the deal he made as health minister with generic pharmaceutical companies that save taxpayers $350 million a year.

McIntyre knows as well as anybody that it's a rough environment for Liberal MLA's these days, and that the party took a beating in the polls following the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax. She is optimistic that Clark will be able to communicate the issue to the public before the June or September referendum on the future of the HST.

"It's obviously public knowledge now, it's lore almost, how badly we introduced the HST," said McIntyre. "But we have the referendum ahead of us... and we're working on a campaign that we wanted to introduce after the leadership race with a new executive council. In the meantime we've been doing some polling, some listening. People don't want a glitzy sell (of the merits of HST), but they want information and they are owed information."

McIntyre said it's important that people understand what the ramifications would be of getting rid of the HST and returning to the past system with mixed GST and Provincial Sales Tax.

"The implications of going backwards will be expensive for our economy, probably a two-year hit," she said. "There are the millions that we would have to reimburse the federal government, and we would have to hire a new bureaucracy to collect the PST."

McIntyre said the key message to get out is that the HST has been good for businesses, lowering costs and streamlining taxes for business owners. That in turn has prompted more investment in the province. As well, she said low income British Columbians are already receiving HST rebate cheques, and are less opposed to the combined tax than they used to be.

"I know people in this corridor that were amongst the loudest voices against (the HST), and now they're saying they were complete wrong and have gone 180 (degrees) to support it," said McIntyre.

"It's very complicated, but as people have had time to get used to it, even at a local level, it's not the doom and gloom that we anticipated. It's helping to foster industry and the things that contribute to our coffers. We have 18 mills back up and running in B.C. (so) it's been a huge boon to our resource industry. Its attracting new investment, and the companies that are already here are reinvesting now that it's had time to build.

"Communicating that has to be the priority for a new leader."

Clark has not voiced her own opinion on the HST, but has generally agreed that there were issues with the way it was introduced. She supports the referendum and has called for an early vote on June 24, with equal funding to both sides of the issue.

As for the leadership election, she said the ranked ballot system and the recent decision to go with a system that weights all the ridings equally, made for an exciting race.

"It was very tense," said McIntyre of Saturday's leadership vote. "I was very nervous. We've been at this for almost four months and a lot of people such as myself got involved very early. It was quite a long haul compared to the typical 28-day provincial campaign, so there was a lot of bested interest - especially with three strong frontrunners, and it being too close to call until the third count, that obviously added to the atmosphere of tension."