Challenges ahead for provincial Liberals

Premier Christy Clark has her work cut out for her if she wants her government re-elected next May.

Premier Christy Clark has her work cut out for her if she wants her government re-elected next May. Last week Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, Education Minister George Abbott, Children and Family’s Minister Mary McNeil and MLA John Les all laced their walking shoes to take the exit door out of politics.

With all the others that have left government, the exodus adds to 13.

Clark will be working hard with her backroom boys to put a positive spin on this brain drain but, if polls are any indication, she’s facing a four-year run in the opposition trenches.

Early in August an Angus Reid poll put the NDP at 49 per cent compared to the Liberals at 22 per cent and 19 per cent for the Conservatives.

She’s going to have to pull in fresh blood.  But it’s hard to recruit successful people since, at the top of their game, they are enjoying all the perks of private enterprise. Why leave that for the MMA arena of politics?

Yet those ministers leaving were careful in their support of Clark.

“Our province went from worst to first and is now one of the leading jurisdictions in Canada, a remarkable achievement largely made possible by former Premier Campbell’s focus on economic opportunity and growth as well as investment in schools, universities, hospitals, highways, airports, and ports,” said John Les. “Going forward, I am confident that Premier Clark will continue to build on these achievements with her ‘Jobs Agenda’, in particular her focus on LNG and resource development with the huge economic opportunities that can flow from those initiatives.”

But Clark is still dragging the baggage of former Premier Gordon Campbell behind her and it will play out as election hopefuls tool up for serious campaigning next April right when the PST returns. The disastrous debacle of the HST will play its political card front and centre right to the polling booth. And Clark herself has to win her own seat.

Last year she was fighting for the right to lead as head of the Liberal Party with Kevin Falcon biting her heels. She won by a slim margin of 52 votes to Falcon’s 48. Heeding President Lincoln’s wisdom that the way to deal with an enemy is to make him your friend, Clark offered the plum heavyweight job as Minister of Finance to Falcon.

But will he be back? He skillfully left that open. “Never say never,” he told reporters, adding in a CKNW interview with Bill Good that he didn’t want words coming back to bite him. Hmm…

Scenario: Liberals fail miserably next May. Clark loses her seat and/or is up against a leadership review. Leadership is up for grabs and on track to fire people’s imaginations for the 1217 election (after, Liberals assume, the NDP bites the dust). A future Falcon move?

Like it or not, Clark has to turn the retiring MLAs scenario into a clean slate opportunity and build on the Liberals’ brighter track record.

Les said British Columbia’s economic performance today is remarkably good, particularly in light of a fragile economic environment globally

“It is more important now than ever to stay the course on our economic plans,” he said. “I will do everything I can to ensure Premier Clark and the BC Liberal government is re-elected in May 2013.”

Stealing words from Condoleeza Rice at the Republican National Convention last week, “You cannot lead from behind.”

It’s been over a decade since the Liberals were doing just that. And they sure don’t want a re-run. Debacles aside, the past decade overall has been good for B.C. under their leadership.

They may have flat lined. But they’re not out. Yet.