Premier of ‘bleeding’ Liberal party not likely to give up
Despite a slew of resignations from Christy Clark’s cabinet this week, a former Richmond MLA and supporter of the embattled premier is still backing her ahead of the next election.
“It’s been difficult for her, I’ll be the first to admit that. She’s certainly had her challenges inheriting the HST debacle, but I really believe she’s a good leader,” said Coun. Ken Johnston, who served as a Liberal MLA with Clark from 2001 to 2005.
On Wednesday, Kevin Falcon resigned as finance minister and announced he won’t seek another term in May. Education Minister George Abbott and Children and Family Development Minister Mary McNeill followed on Thursday. Longtime Liberal MLA John Les also announced he won’t run again.
Johnston, who backed Clark in her successful Liberal party leadership bid, said he expects more long-serving MLAs to make similar announcements, considering the demands of the job.
“I’m astounded people last as long as they do, to be blunt about it, considering the demands on your time.”
Johnston suggested the resignations are a loss for the party, but also present an opportunity.
“It’s tough to lose a great performer on anything, whether it’s a team, in business or in politics,” he said. “But politics is about renewal; it’s about new people stepping forward.”
The premier also has the support of at least two of Richmond’s MLAs. On Thursday, the B.C. Liberal Party released a list of 11 returning MLAs who have candidate selection meetings booked—a formality prior to the May 14, 2013 election. Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap and Richmond East MLA Linda Reid are on the list, but Richmond Centre MLA Rob Howard isn’t—at least not yet.
Reid, the only Richmond MLA The Review could reach this week, said the premier asked all MLAs to indicate by month's end whether they'll run again. Ahead of the 2005 election, Reid said 19 or 20 Liberal MLAs called it quits, and in 2009, 14.
She also noted other finance ministers who didn't seek re-election in the past: Gary Collins and Carole Taylor.
"Renewal sometimes is just that. You bring in new folk. Both times we were re-elected, so we'll see what the future holds," said Reid.
Political science instructor and Richmond resident Allan Warnke said the party is experiencing “severe bleeding” now that Clark has lost ministers in two key portfolios, including Falcon, who represented the party’s conservative faction. Clark is now tasked with finding replacements who are not only competent but respected among their peers, said Warnke.
“That hurts Christy Clark’s government and hurts her chances. So this hurts her ability to get re-elected next year,” he said.
Warnke, who served as a Liberal MLA in Steveston from 1991 to 1996, said even if Clark is urged to step aside as leader of the party, she won’t concede defeat.
“She’s not going to give this up for the good of the party or anything like that. She’s not that kind of person,” he said. “I just don’t see her giving up, no matter what kind of pressure is placed on her.”
Other Liberals who’ve declared they’re pulling the plug next spring include Bill Barisoff, Harry Bloy, Murray Coell, Dave Hayer, Kash Heed and Kevin Krueger.