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With a week to go before writ is dropped, BC leaders say they're ready

Losing ground in public opinion and with little more than a week to go before the writ is dropped, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark announced Monday she's booked a half-hour prime time television slot next weekend to take her message directly to voters.

Clark, who tied with Newfoundland Premier Kathy Dunderdale as the least popular provincial leader in the country in an Angus Reid poll, suggested she will lay out her platform in the TV address next Sunday, telling voters what direction lies ahead with a Liberal government.

"Communicating through the media is different than communicating directly with people," Clark told reporters at a campaign-style event at a Vancouver elementary school.

"The intention with setting aside a half-hour of time is to talk to people directly and let them make a decision based on all of the content, unfiltered, talking to people about where I stand on the issues.

"They'll make a judgment based on what they hear and I'm up for that. I want people to know where I stand on the issues, I want them to know what my vision is for the province."

Clark is struggling in polls.

The Angus Reid poll released Monday found she and her governing Liberals had an approval rating of 25 per cent in the online survey of almost 7,100 adults, down from 31 per cent just three months prior. Eight per cent of those surveyed from March 11 to March 23 were undecided on Clark and 67 per cent disapproved of her performance as premier.

The poll was conducted shortly after Clark was forced to apologize for a leaked strategy aimed at wooing ethnic voters.

New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix had an approval rating of 49 per cent, while BC Conservative Leader John Cummins got the nod from 20 per cent and Green Party Leader Jane Sterk, 32 per cent. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Nevertheless, Clark said she has a strong team of candidates and is ready for the campaign to begin next Tuesday. Voters go to the polls May 14.

"I'm comfortable. I feel ready," she said at Lord Tennyson Elementary School in her riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, where she reaffirmed the government commitment to seismic upgrades for B.C. schools.

The provincial New Democrats spent the weekend finalizing candidates in all 85 B.C. ridings and opening campaign offices after filling vacancies in Peace River South, Peace River North, Boundary-Similkameen and West Vancouver-Sea to Sky.

The official campaign may not begin until next week, but New Democrat campaign workers handed out thousands of leaflets, Dix said.

"We can really feel enthusiasm for change for the better in campaign offices and on the doorstep throughout the province," Dix said in a statement. "It's a week before the campaign officially starts and we've got thousands of dedicated volunteers already active in their local campaigns."

BC Conservative campaign manager Jeff Bridge said the party has 60-some candidates in place or "in the funnel" and will have candidates in 83 of 85 ridings by next Tuesday. The Conservatives are not running candidates in the ridings of independent MLAs Vicki Huntington or John van Dongen.

Clark was to appear Monday night at the annual premier's dinner, which organizers said was the most successful fundraiser in the party's history.

More than 1,800 people were expected to attend the $400-a-plate event.

Dene Moore reports for The Canadian Press.

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