theBreaker has learned that BC Liberal Party soul-searching reached a fever pitch this week — the last full week of the free enterprise party’s 16-year dynasty.
Party brass met behind closed doors in Vancouver and Surrey to ruminate over losing power to John Horgan and the NDP, who will be sworn-in on July 18 after defeating the Liberals on a June 29 confidence vote. The post-mortem was not kind to the “Strong B.C., Bright Future” campaign, which was backed by a huge corporate-funded war chest. (Remember how Rich Coleman privately boasted last September to members that the bank account had never been so full and the party would wind up with more seats after the election?)
Attendees of the Monday event at a top secret location in downtown Vancouver included senior party members, several cabinet ministers, former support staff and party-connected lobbyists. Several unloaded on the horrific 2017 election campaign and named lame duck Premier Christy Clark as the problem.
Another debrief in Surrey, with a similar mix of individuals, saw defeated cabinet minister Peter Fassbender get up and unload about Clark. The one-term Surrey-Fleetwood MLA “went to town,” according to theBreaker’s source. The former education and taxis/transit minister called Clark, not the party, the problem.
Fassbender admitted mistakes were made on the road to the May 9 vote and said “we could’ve been more giving.” He called Finance Minister Mike de Jong too difficult, but had more criticism up his sleeve for the premier, blaming her for the NDP’s return to the government side of the house. The former Palmer Jarvis adman and Langley city mayor’s criticism was so harsh and intense, that he was asked to slow down!
Fassbender was blunt: “She lost it for us. Period. End of story.”
Longtime Liberal powerbroker Prem Vinning was furious at two of Clark’s right-hand men, for costing the BC Liberals at least three seats in Surrey. Thousands of votes were lost in the battleground city because Clark stubbornly listened to her inner-circle. The NDP won six of nine ridings, much to the chagrin of longtime Liberal strategist Patrick Kinsella, who convinced the party he would deliver eight of nine. Before the election, and before redistribution, the Liberals held a 5-3 advantage.
A key decision was pinpointed during the Surrey session. Instead of supporting well-known Surrey businessman Satnam Johal’s candidacy, Clark sided with her brother Bruce Clark and ex-husband Mark Marissen’s recommendation for a Sukh Dhawilal-connected candidate: Puneet Sandhar. NDP’s Jinny Sims beat lawyer Sandhar by almost 1,800 votes in Surrey-Panorama.
Clark-favoured Dhaliwal was slated to run for the BC Liberals in 2013, but was forced to bow out over his tax evasion conviction. Dhaliwal made a federal comeback as a Liberal MP, by handily winning Surrey-Newton in 2015 over Sims.
While the shrinking Clark Clique clings to the dream that the slim Green-supported NDP minority will fall this autumn, expect the many disappointed realists in the party to spend the rest of this summer plotting a leadership change and house cleaning.