It’s difficult to know what’s going on in the back rooms of the B.C. Liberal party. But certainly some of the more hushed discussions will be about the future of party leader Christy Clark.
Clark has said she will remain at the party’s helm after the inevitable non-confidence vote moves the Liberals to the opposition benches.
But that choice might not be hers.
Clark rose to power with little caucus support. The sole MLA who backed her leadership bid – Harry Bloy – later resigned from cabinet under a cloud and did not seek re-election.
Since then internal support has grown, particularly after her surprise win in the 2013 provincial election. That was her first test as party leader and many pundits expected the baggage from former premier Gordon Campbell to pull her and the party down. When that didn’t happen, any talk of departure was quieted by the prospect of four years in power.
But those years have hardly been uneventful. Despite leading a province with the strongest economy and most vigorous job growth, Clark’s leadership has been marked by controversy and disappointment.
The long-simmering dispute with B.C. teachers finally resulted in a Supreme Court loss for the B.C. government.
Her ill-advised decision to make promises about LNG growth were beyond her power to deliver.
The scandalous treatment of several health ministry workers appeared and reappeared in headlines.
The ongoing tragedies in the child protection ministry. The opioid crisis. Homelessness and housing affordability in the Lower Mainland.
While it would be wrong to saddle Christy Clark with responsibility for all these challenges, the reality is that when the team suffers, the coach is usually the one to go first.
And the Liberal party will want to move quickly. Despite the pledge by the Greens and the NDP for a stable four-year minority government, their timeline could be a lot shorter than that.
Andrew Weaver and John Horgan may share certain ideals, but they both know they’ll be fighting for the same votes in the next election.
It’s hard to tell how long the honeymoon will last, but the B.C. Liberals will want to be ready to exploit any opportunity should there be a divorce.
They’ll want a leader in place who can capitalize on a split in the left, while retaining their traditional support on the right. They’ll want someone with experience, but someone unsullied by the previous 16 years of Liberal power.
They’ll want someone who can maintain the party’s strength in rural B.C., while recapturing the vital urban vote.
It remains to be seen who that someone will be.
But one thing is for sure, the search is already quietly underway.
Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress