EDITORIAL: Liberals may regret not making a leadership change
Miraculously, Christy Clark is still premier.
After a week that saw the already-unpopular government add two more serious scandals to its sinking fortunes, Clark somehow managed to survive meetings with cabinet and caucus and lives to fight another day.
Meanwhile, John Yap, the minister who was not even minister responsible for the ethnic votes scandal (the policy was drafted on the immortal Harry Bloy’s watch), stepped aside on Monday while the whole mess gets investigated.
The ethnic voters scandal arose from a leaked memo describing the use of government resources to boost the party’s popularity with ethnic communities.
This includes a plan to apologize in the legislature this month for the head tax on Chinese immigrants, imposed by Ottawa from 1885 to 1935. Such apologies are proposed in the strategy memo as “quick wins” before the May 14 provincial election.
The NDP released another document Monday, a December 2011 spreadsheet describing a meeting to “target swing ridings” and “target ethnicities” including Chinese, South Asian, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese.
The memo was sent out by Clark confidante and deputy Kim Haakstad, who distributed the ethnic voter plan to party and government staff via their personal e-mail addresses. Among the staff was Pamela Martin, the former news anchor turned premier’s director of outreach. Hard to imagine that the premier didn’t know about this. The public and many within the Liberal Party were aghast at the cynical plan—Haakstad was forced to resign. Now Yap has stepped aside too, though it’s doubtful he had anything to do with the plan.
It was not the resignation a lot of British Columbians were hoping for.
With the May 14 election approaching, perhaps Liberal MLAs fear a leadership change will cause more turmoil for a party that saw it’s last leader, Gordon Campbell, resign two years ago over the HST mess.
However, in sticking with Clark, things may actually get worse.
On the great myths of B.C. politics is one in which Christy Clark is hailed as a “great campaigner” and “good communicator.” However, a look at her 2005 Vancouver mayoral candidate bid and the 2011 byelection reveal Clark is anything but a great campaigner.
In 2005, not along after ending her first stint in government to spend more time with her young son, Clark announced she was seeking the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral nomination. She didn’t even live in Vancouver at the time of the announcement and had no discernible campaign platform. She did sign up a lot of members—unfortunately for her, not enough turned out and Sam Sullivan won the candidacy (and later the election).
In 2011, Clark ran in Gordon Campbell’s recently-vacated Vancouver-Point Grey riding in a byelection. She refused to participate in all-candidates debates, but did find the time to play dress-up and be a waitress for part of a shift. In the end, she only barely beat the NDP’s David Eby.
For a premier that has showed full preference for photo-ops over public policy, it’s hard to see how things will get better for the Liberals over an intense election campaign.