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BC Election 2013

Marathon's Not over for Christy Clark

'Born campaigner' premier still has several hills ahead to climb, as pundits point out.

Colleen Kimmett 11 Jul 2013TheTyee.ca

Colleen Kimmett is a senior editor at The Tyee. With files from Robyn Smith.

Christy Clark compared her campaign to a marathon run at last night's party celebrating her cruise to an easy victory in the Westside-Kelowna byelection.

Indeed, the premier -- a "born campaigner" as Les Leyne of the Times Columnist described her -- has been going non-stop for more than 30 months, ever since her successful bid to become the leader of the BC Liberal Party in February 2011.

"When you are in the middle of a marathon you don't stand around and say, 'Gee, I'm so tired,'" she said, following her win last night. "When you are in the middle of a marathon you say, 'I have got to keep my energy up. I've got to keep working so that I can get to the end, and I can succeed."

Few expected she would lose in this highly Liberal part of the province, although columnist Andy Radia opined that there was still an "anonymous crew" within the party -- "the 801 movement" -- that was prepared to remove Clark from the provincial leader's office following what was an assumed loss to the NDP in the provincial election. It's time for those doubters to stop doubting, wrote Radia at Yahoo.com, and "put down the swords and join the party."

Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail pointed out that for much of the past two and half years, Clark was still learning how to govern; that this is her leadership entering a new phase and that "the opportunity is hers" to become a stateswoman who can impact the national scene.

"This is not to say that there is some great hope that Ms. Clark will shed her glass-half-full disposition, her jocular style, the personality trimmings that made her such a hit on the campaign trail."

(An example: At an all candidates' forum last week, Clark smoothly deflected her opponents' jabs at her party's track record, saying: "In this byelection you'll be deciding: Do you want someone to go to Victoria and hold government to account, or do you want to send someone to get something done?")

What's next?

The economy remains, as it was during the campaign, number one on the premier's to-do list. During the lead-up to the election, facing a whopping $1.2 billion deficit and her party's reputation as the best fiscal managers, Clark borrowed from the NDP playbook, promising to increase income taxes for high earners and reverse pay rates for political staff.

But the reality is more cuts are coming, and they are going to hit the public service, or those in the already beleaguered middle class, hardest.

As Charlie Smith warns in the Georgia Straight, by year three of governance Clark's vow to maintain a balanced budget could catch up with her.

"Clark could find herself in even deeper trouble as the public realizes that she's either lied about balancing budgets and not raising taxes -- or she's kept her promise and absolutely eviscerated public services," he writes.

In other words, Clark better hope those liquified natural gas riches don't fall through the cracks of the seismic global energy market; the results could be disastrous.

And having chopped some long-time Liberal loyalists from cabinet, like Gordon Hogg, Marvin Hunt, Sam Sullivan and Moira Stilwell, Smith wonders if Clark might eventually face a caucus rebellion should she politically stumble, or see her popularity slump, down the line.

But while it doesn't appear she'll be sworn into the legislature in time for this summer session, one thing's for certain: Clark won't be putting her feet up anytime soon. The marathon's far from over for this tireless B.C. premier.  [Tyee]

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