Christy Clark resigns as B.C.’s 35th premier, having fought to the end
Premier Christy Clark has resigned, marking the end of 16 years of BC Liberal rule in the province.
B.C.’s 35th premier, Clark will go down as a divisive figure — and one remembered as a fighter to the end.
Coverage of Christy Clark on Globalnews.ca:
Clark was B.C.’s second female premier after Rita Johnston, and the first to have led her party to an election victory.
She was also just the second Canadian woman to give birth while holding a cabinet post.
LISTEN: Christy Clark resigns as B.C.’s 35th premier, having fought to the end
First elected in the riding of Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain in 1996, Clark was known for her probing questions and cutting attacks from the critics’ bench while an opposition MLA.
A rising star in Gordon Campbell’s Liberal Party, she was promoted to deputy premier and education minister when the NDP was virtually wiped out in the 2001 election.
It was there that she faced her first major political battle, taking on the BC Teachers’ Federation in 2002 with a full scale overhaul of the education system – one that involved tearing up key provisions in teachers’ contracts regarding class size and composition.
That battle conclude only last year, with a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling that restored teachers’ contracts.
WATCH: Supreme Court of Canada rules in favour of BCTF, ending 15-year battle
Bowing out of provincial politics in 2004, it wasn’t long before Clark lined up another battle – this time for a shot to be mayor of Vancouver.
That fight didn’t go her way, with Clark losing the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) nomination to Sam Sullivan, who was later elected mayor.
In an ironic twist, Sullivan would later run for the BC Liberals – serving first as a backbencher, and later as a cabinet minister under Clark’s leadership.
Out of the political arena, Clark spent several years in radio at CKNW AM980 hosting the Christy Clark Show – a position from which she championed Pink Shirt Day, transforming it from an inspirational one-off high school event into a full-scale anti-bullying campaign.
But her biggest fights were still ahead — and in 2010, in the wake of then-premier Gordon Campbell’s resignation, she announced her plans to jump back into provincial politics with a crack at the top job.
She led a hard-fought campaign with a “Families First” platform that would become a key part of her early brand, along with a pledge for new openness and accountability.
Marketing herself as an outsider candidate, Clark edged out cabinet ministers George Abbott, Mike de Jong, and Kevin Falcon – narrowly defeating the latter on a third ballot with a tally of 52 per cent to Falcon’s 48 per cent.
Clark’s early term as premier was a rocky one, marked by the so-called “quick wins” scandal in which the Liberals used government resources on partisan ethnic outreach, and internal dissent — with a number of key cabinet ministers opting not to run again in the 2013 election.
Sagging in the polls – one showed her tied for least popular premier in Canada — Clark was widely expected to lead the BC Liberals to a crushing defeat at the ballot box. One headline of the day went as far as claiming that NDP Leader Adrian Dix could kick a dog and still win the election.
Knives came out within her own party too, with the formation of the so-called 801 movement – named for its intent to oust Clark as leader at 8:01 p.m., the moment the polls closed.
But Clark defied both the odds and her critics, executing a tightly-focused campaign that centered on jobs, LNG, and a “debt free” B.C. – while famously skewering Dix in the leaders’ debate for his waffling position on the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
WATCH: Christy Clark’s surprise 2013 election victory
On election night, she stunned the province — and the pundits — earning a strong majority government, though losing her own seat.
The term that followed was had a string of balanced budgets and saw B.C. lead the country in economic growth.
It was also marked by the dogged pursuit of resource projects, such as the Site C dam, which now hangs in the balance, and the LNG industry, which critics say has failed to launch.
Clark’s term was also marred by its own scandals, including firings at the Ministry of Health after which one wrongly-fired worker take his own life, triple-deleted government emails, and the deaths of kids in government care.
WATCH: Christy Clark’s LNG Pitch
The 2017 campaign marked the beginning of the end.
The BC Liberals ran on a campaign touting their economic record and a plan to create jobs, but was relatively thin on new policy ideas.
The opposition NDP and Greens targeted Clark for her support of lax political fundraising laws and painted her as being beholden to big money interests. It was a narrative that allowed them to hammer the party on housing, transit and other affordability issues.
The opposition attacks seemed to crystallize with Clark’s chance encounter with a disgruntled voter in a North Vancouver grocery store. A video of the encounter, in which many viewed Clark as dismissive, quickly went viral and sparked the hashtag #IamLinda.
The narrative appeared to have stuck, and despite a strong economic track record and a brimming war chest, the Liberals collapsed in Metro Vancouver.
The result was a minority government, with the Liberals holding 43 seats to the NDP’s 41 and Greens’ three.
Unable to negotiate a deal with the Greens, Clark forced an allied opposition to go back to the House and topple her over a throne speech packed with their own policies and billions in new funding.
In the end, the lieutenant-governor did not accept Clark’s final argument, that government couldn’t function under an NDP-Green alliance’s razor-thin majority — and B.C. will see its first NDP-led government in more than a decade and a half.
Clark, for her part, has said she intends to stay on as opposition leader.
And while she may now face pressure from within her own party, if her record shows anything — Christy Clark won’t give up without a fight.
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