I thought for a long time that Christy Clark had the potential to become an outstanding premier of British Columbia.
I got to know her when she worked at CKNW for a couple of years starting in 2007, in between political forays. We had numerous conversations about B.C. politics, what was good, what was wrong, what needed to be fixed and where the province was headed in the longer term.
My gut feeling told me to be skeptical of her at first, after all, her two and a half year stint as education minister starting in 2001, tearing up teachers contracts, had revealed a gleeful partisanship and a dogmatic ferocity that precluded anything resembling compromise.
Teachers were the enemy, it was “us” and “them.” A theme that would return in later years.
But in our conversations off-air, and in her on-air work, Clark seemed somehow wiser and more focused on the bigger picture.
Her grasp on the province’s issues and what people were going through was deeper and more compassionate. It was then, that I believed, the leadership potential emerged.
Then in November of 2010 premier Gordon Campbell decided to resign. Reporters and TV cameras all converged at the CKNW studio waiting for an analysis from Clark, and of course, demanding to know whether she’d run for the Liberal leadership.
As the attention focused more intensely on her, change happened. She was bathing in the attention.
When the cameras rolled her entire countenance changed. All of the sudden she was “on,” and the look in her eyes told me the old Clark never did go away, not really.
In that moment I realized that pure and raw political drive was in command. This wasn’t about leadership, vision, or working on behalf of all British Columbians, this was naked ambition and the opportunity to make a lifelong dream come true.
It was never clear to me what exactly she stood for ideologically-speaking other than the mantra of balancing the budget, and even that was a ruse.
Raiding ICBC and BC Hydro, selling off Crown land and nickel-and-diming social programs made it balanced on paper, but when B.C.’s children were always at the bottom of the list of the worse off in Canada, can that really said to be balanced?
WATCH: People in Kelowna respond to Christy Clark’s resignation
I’ll let others recall Clark’s time in office, except to observe that the “us” and “them” mentality prevailed. It was like a high school clique, the people with money, those who could feed the ambition were in while everybody else, the poor, the disabled, kids in crisis, the middle class struggling to buy a house, etc. were out.
Her political fundraising became an international embarrassment that cast B.C. as some kind of corrupt, anything goes Wild West.
In the end, my initial gut feeling was right. Because as it turned out, Christy Clark loved to be the centre of attention, loved people, loved the hard-hat photo ops. Great campaigner, they said.
The problem is what happened in between elections. The leadership, decision making, creation of a vision for moving the whole province forward. In these cases her lack of depth and ability became apparent.
That’s why so many observers were surprised at the lacklustre campaign the Liberals ran for the May election. It was a stand pat “elect us and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing” campaign.
In the end, sheer political ambition wasn’t enough and Friday, sensing blood in the water and the sharks circling, Clark resigned from provincial politics, just days after promising to stay on as opposition leader.
My guess is that having the spotlight on someone else was simply unacceptable to a politician who drew immense sustenance from it.