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BC Election 2017
BC Politics

Christy Clark Tried to Trump British Columbians

So clearly a friend of the wealthy, she posed populist and scorned news media.

David Beers 9 May

David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee.

This was the election when the premier of British Columbia positioned herself as the ideal person to fight Donald Trump’s coming attack on the good citizens of this province. It’s also the election when the premier’s campaign methods eerily mimicked those of Donald Trump. Not, probably, because she’s any big admirer of Donald Trump, but because she saw his tactics pulled populist votes to a person who, whatever else he might be, is no man of the people.

Similarly, whatever else she might be, Christy Clark is no woman of the people. She lives in a $3.7-million house rented from a BC Liberal insider, and pours enormous energy into cultivating the rich in B.C., Alberta, China, wherever a large political donation can be wangled. She did it so well, with so few legal encumbrances, the New York Times took notice, naming B.C. the “Wild West of political cash.”

As other media dug into that story, it was Christy Clark, like Donald Trump, who went on the attack against the news media, dismissing them as irrelevant to her fate. She snarked to the editorial board of the Victoria Times Colonist that she doesn’t read newspapers. Her team doubled down, floating the notion they paid no attention to even the once mighty Vancouver Sun and CKNW, though might deign to catch Global TV’s newscast.

Clark left it to her most powerful cabinet minister, Rich Coleman, to dismiss the New York Times expose on the pay to play cronyism her government had fostered. Sounding quite like Trump, Coleman called the story “weak” and “laughable.” When the Times published a second story, during the election, on secretive BC Liberal government tax breaks for foreign investors, Clark again played Trump – or was it Sarah Palin? – responding to a reporter’s follow-up question: “I am really impressed that you made it all the way through that article and were able to figure out what the guy was trying to say.”

It’s not at all true that Clark and her team don’t care about news media, I am assured by various journalists who have covered them over the past months. If they didn’t care, I was told, why did a Clark comms aide scream at a radio reporter about coverage of the botched health worker firings?

But politicians adopting Trump’s game, slamming the media when cornered, is a sign of the Facebook times. On their finely tweaked social media micro-channels, parties can beam their messages unadulterated, unchallenged, to their algorithmically identified base. By the same means, and through blunt force TV ads, they can stir misinformation into the larger conversation, turning journalists into harried fact-checkers and myth debunkers, always a step late.

One of those moments came when Christy Clark keyed off Donald Trump’s softwood sabre rattling to weave a bizarre conspiracy theory that John Horgan and his backers the B.C. Steelworkers union would conspire to give away forest jobs to Donald Trump. By the time The Tyee and other media pointed out that Clark’s Liberals were far more suspect in that regard, given big donations they’d taken from U.S. based timber corporations, Clark had achieved her aim, striking her stance as the little people’s brave warrior against a monstrous bully.

In a post-media world, in Trumpian fashion, Clark understands that if you are going to pretend to be the opposite of who you are, bluff big or go home. For the truth, of course, is made clear by asking a simple question: When has Christy Clark ever spent a single nickel of political capital in standing up to power and wealth on behalf of the vulnerable in B.C.? If you can think of an instance, please post it in the comments below.  [Tyee]

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