With veteran B.C. Liberal lawmakers jumping ship right, right and centre, it’s difficult to see how unelected Premier Christy Clark is going to paint herself out of un-premiership come next May.
Chuck Strahl, the former B.C. Conservative MP and one-time Clark-government advisor, is bang-on in saying that the departures of veterans Kevin Falcon, Mary McNeil, John Les, George Abbott and now Joan McIntyre present not just a challenge but an opportunity. Still, Clark’s downfall seems a virtual certainty unless she can dash off a reconstructive masterpiece in the next few months.
Last month, Province columnist Michael Smyth wrote about a series of women’s-only luncheons Clark has been attending, including one in North Vancouver that was purportedly sponsored by the four North Shore MLAs, including our own Joan McIntyre. The purpose of the meetings is obvious: the latest Angus Reid poll puts Liberal support among women at a paltry 15 per cent, compared to 53 per cent of women who say they support Adrian Dix and the NDP.
If it’s going to happen, B.C. Liberal renewal can and must begin by significantly bolstering those numbers. But support among women isn’t Clark’s main problem. There’s a real leadership vacuum in Victoria right now, and the cabinet shuffle that’s expected in the coming days isn’t likely to fix that.
Clark and her party, remember, cast their lot with predecessor Gordon Campbell before last summer’s HST referendum by promising to “fix” the tax if B.C. voters chose to keep it. Voters axed it instead, causing Falcon and Clark to grudgingly introduce a plan to bring back the PST.
What’s more, in laying out five “conditions” under which she would support the unpopular Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, Clark isn’t likely to win over the vast majority of voters, who appear squarely in the Dix camp on that key issue.
McIntyre’s seat appears wide open now that she has declared her intention not to run again. North Shore News columnist Trevor Lautens has written that McIntyre is so nice she “couldn’t find an opponent’s jugular with a road map” — a backhanded compliment if ever we’ve heard one. It’s rumoured that the Grits are looking for a higher-profile candidate such as Pam Goldsmith-Jones or Pamela Martin. Whomever is chosen, it’s likely to be a tough slog against NDP and/or Conservative rivals.
Either way, the Liberals’ (by then) 12-year hold on power in Victoria appears destined for the scrap heap.
— David Burke