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Clark's agenda reveals first weeks after election win

Premier Christy Clark packed a lot into her speech to local politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Sept. 20 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

She announced a blue-ribbon crime reduction panel, a funding scheme to foster rural support for the nascent liquefied natural gas industry and a plan to replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge.

The UBCM speech is an annual ritual for whoever is premier. In Clark's case, she began preparing for the 2013 speech way back on July 30, according to her calendar, which was released via Freedom of Information.

Her appointments for the three weeks after the surprise May 14 BC Liberal election victory are most intriguing.

Clark's first recorded appointment the day after the stunning upset over Adrian Dix and the NDP was a 3:15 p.m. phone call with Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon. Then came a series of five-minute phone calls with Alberta Premier Alison Redford; Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski; Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger; Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz; ex-Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal Party-picked successor Premier Kathleen Wynne. McGuinty was the only non-premier of the bunch, but it was his former chief of staff, Don Guy, who was an architect of the Clark turnaround.

Time was held on May 16 for a call with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois. The only other appointment of the day was a 1:05 p.m. phone call with Gordon Campbell, Clark's predecessor in the premiership and now Canada's High Commissioner for the United Kingdom. Clark sought to distance herself from Campbell, who was pressured by a faction of caucus to resign in fall 2010 and was named Canada's man in London by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in summer 2011.

Clark flew for a vacation in New York with son Hamish from May 17 to 21. Her first one-on-one media interview is listed with Harjinder Thind of RedFM on May 22, before videotaping a greeting to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce at 11:30 a.m., a half-hour transition meeting at 4 p.m. and meeting with chief of staff Dan Doyle at 4:30 p.m. (Clark's calendar doesn't show it, but she appeared May 15 on 99.3 the Fox's morning show, where she was introduced by host Jeff O'Neill as "Christy Frickin' Clark!")

The May 23 calendar also includes an entry for an "ethnic media call," this time with Shere Punjab Radio 1550 host Dr. Jasbir Romana at 8:35 a.m. Clark resumed phone calls with other premiers. A 12:15 p.m. timeslot was reserved for Premier Darrell Dexter of Nova Scotia, followed by Premier Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador. Clark met with John Dyble, her deputy minister, at 4:15 p.m., before ending the day with a call to Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak at 5:20 p.m. Hudak was the only opposition leader in Clark's calendar. Clark's campaign backroom also included Ontario Conservatives, like pollster/strategist Dimitri Pantazopoulos.

Clark began a series of lengthy transition meetings on May 24 and May 27. The first industrialist in her calendar was Lorraine Mitchelmore, Shell Canada's president, for 10 minutes on the last Monday of May.

May 28 included a half-hour midday chat with Athana Mentzelopoulos, the head of Government Communications and Public Engagement.* Clark made an appearance at the Pan Pacific Hotel next door to the premier's Vancouver Office to greet the B.C. Business Council at its annual general meeting. She also popped-in to the YMCA Women of Distinction Awards at the Westin Bayshore.

Another two-hour transition meeting on May 29 preceded calls to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Premier David Alward of New Brunswick. May 30 included another two-hour transition meeting, the only meeting on her schedule.

She ended the month and the week with brief remarks on May 31 at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention where she posed with a BFI Natural Gas truck for a photo opportunity before returning to the office to chat with Premier Brad Wall of Saskatchewan. And yet another two-hour transition meeting.

Finally, on June 3, she had her first recorded post-election conversation with a B.C. mayor. In this case, it was Vancouver's Gregor Robertson who visited the downtown Vancouver cabinet office at Canada Place in-person from 9:45 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Clark and Robertson have benefitted from several of the same campaign operatives, the best-known being communications advisor Don Millar.

Later that day, after another two-hour transition meeting and an appearance at the Aboriginal Business Investment Council board meeting, Clark spent 15 minutes on the phone with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Meanwhile, staff in the Office of the Premier racked up nearly $13,000 to stock the protocol department with VIP gifts, according to FOI-released documents.

A Feb. 19 invoice from the Sun Spirit Gallery in West Vancouver totaled $7,635.60 for five 9-inch silver plate bowls, five glass totems, 40 10-inch pewter native ring plates and 10 silver plated frog bowls.

On March 1, 41 bracelets, cuff links, plates and candleholders were purchased for $4,976.50 at Artina's Jewellery in Victoria.

In both cases, approval forms said they were "Gifts to be presented as part of normal protocol to be used for planning and conducting' official visits to the Province of the Sovereign, members of the Royal Family, the Governor General, heads of state and government, foreign ministers, heads of diplomatic missions and other VIPs; protocol hosting visits."

A three-day cabinet retreat in Kelowna wrapped-up with a special event dinner at Quail's Gate Winery, part-owned by then-MLA Ben Stewart. A $1,481.06 receipt said there were 21 three-course dinners prepared for $882 plus $275 room rental.

The Cove Lakeside Resort charged $8,155.99 for three days of Bonfire Banquets catering, incidentals and the meeting room rental for June 26 to 28, 2012.

Office of the Premier's purchasing card costs for the year-ended March 31, 2013 were $402,848.38, down from the previous year's $475,015.19.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin reports for The Tyee.

*Correction: A previous version of this story asserted that Athana Mentzelopoulos volunteered with the BC Liberals during the May election campaign, which Mentzelopoulos denies.

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