Christy Clark really wants to be B.C.’s premier still. In May, she was running on an uninspiring conservative platform that led to the loss of majority status.
On June 22, she changed her tune. Now she wants to give British Columbians “NDP plus Site C.”
A wise sage said to me, if a leopard can change its spots, it is not a leopard, but a chameleon. If a chameleon changes its colours, but doesn’t blend in, it’s a really bad chamelon.
Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon channeled Clark’s blatant ripoff of the NDP and (to a lesser extent) Green platforms. Suddenly, Clark is embracing subsidized childcare, hiking welfare payments and the carbon tax, a low-cost rent-to-own housing program, ending bridge tolls and rethinking the bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel. And no, none of it is costed.
Suddenly she has flip-flopped and is trying to be all things to all people. Aren’t those the reasons why Clark once called NDP leader John Horgan “spineless”?
Oh, the speech included the predictable references to jobs and LNG. And Clark is still clinging to her Site C dam dream that Horgan wants the B.C. Utilities Commission to review and rebuke. But it was a tacit admission that the poorly constructed BC Liberal platform was rejected by voters. Particularly the ones in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island that didn’t buy the jobs and economy message, just like they didn’t buy it when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were selling it federally in 2015. Maybe Clark shouldn’t have imported so many out-of-work Tories from Ottawa and PCs from Alberta to work on Team B.C. 2017.
Like 2015 federally, the 2017 B.C. election became a referendum on the leader. Six in 10 voters chose parties other than the Liberals; longtime Liberals turned their back on their own party and went Green or NDP or stayed home. The clock is ticking until the NDP-Green alliance gets its chance to defeat the Clark Liberals on a confidence vote, but expect the Liberals to filibuster and try another curveball. . The June 22 speech began with democratic reforms, such as a vow for a referendum on proportional representation, the possible moving of fixed election dates to fall. Retired Delta independent Vicki Huntington proposed that, but the Liberals didn’t give her the time of day.
There was nothing about freedom of information, which the NDP has promised to reform after the Liberals came to treat public disclosure with utter contempt.
The speech started with a list of campaign finance reform measures, such as banning corporate and union donations, foreign donations and in-kind donations. It said nothing about giving Elections BC the budget to hire a slew of auditors and investigators to police campaign financing. The Liberals are under investigation by the RCMP on two fronts — over illegal donations by lobbyists and allegations of pay-for-play in the Brenhill condo tower deal.
But, barely 90 minutes after Guichon finished reading the speech and exited the chamber, the Liberals were back to their usual schtick: begging members for money.
Rookie Tsawwassen-residing, Queensborough-representing Citizens Services and Technology Minister Jas Johal used technology (e-mail, to be precise) to strike fear into voters about the prospect of another election. He urged recipients to send money now and then circulate the message to five friends.
“The NDP are planning to take power with the support of the Green Party, and implement an agenda that’s dangerous for jobs, families, and communities throughout B.C.,” wrote Johal. “In this uncertain and unstable situation, we could be back in another election anytime.
“That’s why I’m asking you to give $43 right now – one dollar for every BC Liberal MLA we elected in May. Your gift of $43 or $5 or $300 will help us elect more MLAs so that we can offer a stable, responsive BC Liberal government that will keep our economy strong, keep creating family-supporting jobs, and address urgent affordability issues.
“… we could be back at the polls in a matter of weeks. Please help us with whatever you can afford to be ready for the road ahead – so we can keep working for the British Columbia we all love.”
During the pomp and circumstance, before the speech, Clark was conspicously absent from the steps of the Legislature for her traditional welcome to the lieutenant governor. Guichon arrived in her Lexus limousine to the sounds of protesters gathered around the inflatable Site C white elephant. “Hey hey, ho ho, BC Liberals have gotta go!” they chanted.
Inside, Clark was surrounded by two of her replacements.
One of them being Horgan, the prospective premier. The other, familial. Her ex-husband Mark Marissen was seated with his new wife, Maryam Atigh.
Marissen’s attendance was an eyebrow raiser. Three years ago, Clark claimed she was distancing herself from Marissen, a vice-president of a $10 billion oil refinery proposal. Any matters about Pacific Future Energy, she claimed, would have to go through Finance Minister Mike de Jong.
Also on the sparse guest list were defeated transit and taxis minister Peter “Fast Spender” Fassbender and Clark’s federal Liberal mentor David Anderson, who was a senior minister in the corrupt Jean Chretien regime where Clark was an aide. Anderson’s legacy included kiboshing the ports police.
Clark’s admission of defeat included a vague paragraph referencing the Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.
“An expanded crossing between Richmond and Delta is essential to reducing congestion, ensuring safety, and providing for future light rail. Recognizing concerns about the design, your government will listen and work collaboratively to move this project forward.”
Transportation Ministry representatives didn’t respond immediately to theBreaker about why it said neither bridge nor tunnel. Read between the lines, however, and it appears the $3.5 billion project will be rethought. The NDP revealed during the last week of the campaign that the government was contemplating $8 billion in interest payments, putting the price of the private-public partnership closer to $12 billion.
Richmond Coun. Carol Day was eager to hear more.
“The whole process has been flawed, it’s nice to see we finally got their attention,” Day said. “Pretty sad when it takes losing an election to get their attention. Now they have no choice. The voters finally got their way.”
The project is too complex and costly because Deas Island is packed way too deep with silt and sand. The government has stymied Richmond city council’s efforts to obtain engineering reports that are known to exist which would further confirm the difficulty of building a such bridge across the Lower Fraser.
When the shock wears off, Clark’s about-face may ultimately spell the end of the free enterprise coalition and give new life to the leaderless B.C. Conservatives, whose annual general meeting is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Langley.